For a long, long time fire has been something folks have gathered around. The past few years in most parts of the West it’s no secret this notion has taken a different slant. We all have good reason to be on edge come late summer ’round here and I first want to apologize to all our neighbors for last week’s Big Valley field fire. We’d had such a restful year. Well, mostly. Then this.
Second, whether or not this past fire cycle is partially responsible for the absolute and rapid response to this fire by all of those involved, my family is most grateful for the effective action taken by Okanogan County Fire District 6; the U.S. Forest Service; and the Department of Natural Resources. When I’d left the field hauling the first load of grain that afternoon, everything looked and sounded fine with the combine operator headed into beautiful windrows of silky and ripe emmer. When I raced back 15-20 minutes later several fire rigs already were at the fire’s front! The rest, as “they say,” is history.
What surely could have been a disaster was checked in less than an hour. No one was hurt; the fire itself was kept to the windrowed field and out of adjacent standing grain. With the help of a good friend who flew me to Odessa for combine parts the next morning, and the perceptive crew at the local NAPA, I had the Gleaner going two days after the fire, and picked up what emmer hadn’t been toasted. This is no small miracle!
In 30 years of farming I’ve learned to be judicious about servicing equipment. This was a first. One of the service techs at the combine place in Odessa claimed nine of 10 combine fires are caused by seized bearings. I asked the obvious and he replied there is no good way knowing when a sealed bearing might fail – even new ones. Oh goodie! Well, at least it wasn’t a dratted cell phone that touched it off!
And now the rain …
A local radio host is fond of saying: We’re all in this together. Truth to tell. As sickening as that afternoon was, I’m awful damned proud to live in this community of some real neighbors truly doing what good, rural neighbors do. Including all the volunteer firemen (persons?) This is another reminder to never take what is the simple and often good side of human nature for granted. So, thanks to those of you who offered help in the immediate, in the thereafter, and those who sent best wishes along the way. Peace. Rest assured your words are not lost on us.
Sam Lucy is co-owner of Bluebird Grain Farms north of Winthrop.