Fire Diary of Patrick Goodrich,California State Park Aide

September 3 was my last day at work, and backcountry ranger, Cameron Bowers, had driven up to say goodbye. He, Everett Allen, and I were standing around in the visitor center talking. About 1:15pm the phone rang. I answered but could hear only static on the line. I guessed it was someone in the backcountry in trouble, so I told them if they could hear me, to move to higher ground and try again.

Cameron left about 1:30pm, and shortly afterward, radioed from down the hill asking if I could see smoke. I couldn't.

I opened the backcountry gate and posted a "road closed" sign. I talked to a land owner, who was going to go out to his property. In no time at all fire engines began to arrive and parked along the road leading to the backcountry. I walked to the shop and met the battalion chief who was setting up the IC there. He immediately told me that he was closing down the park. At his request, I posted signs directing engines to the backcountry road. Everett began handing out park maps.

Cameron asked me to run off copies of the fire agreement. I also grabbed maps to be handed out to the engines.

Everyone started showing up. Supervising Ranger Stuart Ogano arrived, as did a number of sheriff's deputies.

Cameron was suiting up in his fire gear to head out into the backcountry. I offered to go with him, and he responded that he would like me to go too. I went back to the VC to take care of some other things. When I got back, he was gone already. Stuart wouldn't have let me back there anyway because I'm not trained in fire safety. That was understandable, I just really wanted to be out there: not only to witness the fire, but to be of some use. Sitting around at the VC just wasn't satisfying enough. No, I didn't want to be on the fire lines with a shovel, but it wouldn't have bothered me to be closer to the action.

All civilians were evacuated out of the campground and ordered to remain in the main parking lot. The IC eventually allowed vehicles to leave.

Then the news people began to arrive, including one rather amazing newswoman wearing yellow fire pants and a tank top! Cheryl and I posted signs at the lower parking lot that said "press", as all parking spaces at headquarters were full. However eventually the press were "allowed" up to headquarters and parked there, too. They swarmed around a hiker who was just exiting the backcountry to interview him.

I returned a phone call from retired Ranger Barry Breckling; when I spoke to him, I informed him jokingly that Cencom was trying to get a hold of him to come into work. I don't think he got the joke. He told me he could see the fire from his property in Greeley Hill, near Yosemite. I called him back later and asked him about access to the Thomas Addition from nearby properties. I relayed that information to Stuart.

Ranger Cheryl Neufeld took some official out to Ridge View Camp to get video images of the fire for the press. I couldn't go on that either.

I felt completely helpless the days following, since I was done with work at that point. I offered to work through the week, but I was told I wouldn't be needed. Again, that's understandable.