The bright red areas in the map below shows just how much the fire spread on Sunday.
|Fire Progression Map courtesy Alaska Fire Service|
After finishing the truck repair project I wrote about in my last post, I came into the house and noticed that I had missed a call on my phone. I dialed the number back, and learned that the evacuation warning had turned into an evacuation notice. Our place lies only about 100 yards beyond the official boundary of the notice, but out of an abundance of caution I decided we should put our plan into action, and bug out.
I got ahold of Trish, who was working at the farmer's market. She was back home with an hour and we put our plan into action, loading the dogs, grabbing up last minute things, and then heading west to camp out at Peggy Billingsley and Darrel Harphem's pace, at 10 Mile. That was well away from the evacuation zone and seemed like a logical place to set up a refugee camp.
The first order of business when we arrived was to stretch out the two picket lines needed to confine 20 dogs. Two widely spaced trees worked for one end, and the truck served as the anchor for the opposite end, using ratchet straps to stretch the lines taught. My reproduction of a late 18th century bell-back 'wedge' or 'A-frame' tent would serve as our living quarters for the duration.
|Basic camp set-up. Click for larger view.|
Darrel and Peggy were wonderful hosts, providing us with comfortable camp chairs, a camp stove to use instead of the wood strove I'd packed for the tent, and even a nice, cushy recliner that got good use as we watched over the dogs.
|Trish and Swanny in Refugee camp. Photo by Peggy Billingsley|
After Trish returned, the dogs were fed, watered and scooped, and we were settling in for the night, our friend who had camped her dogs at our place during the Kanuti Fire stopped by, and gave us a treat of some ice-cream, which made for a delightful surprise and a wonderful mid-night snack.
After we fed, watered and scooped after the dogs Monday morning, Trish headed back up to check on the condition of the house and property and grab a hot shower while I watched over the dog. The only Internet access I had was through my smart phone, which isn't the best tool but sure beats nothing at all. The only real frustration I felt during the whole incident was the lack of reliable information. Rumor were flying fast and thankfully most were unfounded. No homes have been lost, the fire hasn't 'jumped' the main highway or any of a million other rumored calamities. That doesn't mean it didn't try, and a few spot fires formed north of the Chena River, but the firefighters were able to douse them in short order.
Meanwhile, I spent the day dozing and scooping after the dogs. They were living on short pickets, so it was important to keep their very limited spots as clean as we could. Trish returned with only an hour or so to kill before heading back to her workplace at Pleasant Valley Store. Even when living in a refugee camp a woman's appearance is important, and Trish spent some of that time - well, the picture speaks for itself.
|Trish, painting her nails in refugee camp|
The evacuation order was lifted late yesterday afternoon, but I decided to spend another night in camp. With Trish at work, the logistics of breaking camp and hauling everything home was more than I felt I could reasonably manage alone. We started our day this morning with hot coffee savored while the dogs digested their breakfast, and then started loading up. We had everyone and everything back at the house by about 1:00 this afternoon.
We are still under an evacuation watch, and the fire continues to burn. We were allowed back only because wetter weather and a shift of wind direction has made it safe for us to do so. The firefighters have been taking advantage of the better fire weather by working hard to build containment lines along the north and northwestern portions of the fire. The most recently published fire map shows the progress they've made as a dark black line. Our place is almost directly between the 17 and 19 mileposts marked on the yellow section of highway north of the fire. You can click on the map to see a larger view of the image.
|Perimeter map of Stuart Creek 2 fire as published by BLM early this morning.|
If we do have to evacuate again, we are even more well prepared than before and I'm sure it will go even more smoothly. After all, we've had some practice at this.