September 1, 2016
So the lookout phone rang this morning at 1:55 AM, jarring me from a very sound sleep. The call was from Kjell over at Firefighter Lookout, about 18 miles north of me as the crow flies. Kjell's been doing this for a few years, and he's a retired Forest Service dispatcher, so he knows his stuff ... and he was all excited.
We had a small storm cell come up across the valley about 1:30 AM, enough to wake him up but not me. He'd gone outside with his camera and watched a pretty cool lightning strike on a ridge off to the south, between our two lookouts. Here's the photo he sent me:
The strike "torched," starting a small fire on the ground, and he was able to watch it burn for a few minutes ... and then a second strike hit nearby, and he caught this photo:
If you look closely, you can see a small dot of light just to the left of the big lightning strike ... that's the fire burning from the first strike.
And then the new little fire disappeared. I hustled out onto the catwalk with my binoculars, but neither of us could see anything. I know that we were both secretly (or maybe not so secretly) kind of hoping that the little fire would stay visible, so we could call it in.
We're both still watching the area this morning, in case there's a flare-up ... sometimes a lightning strike like that will smolder for days or weeks before turning into a significant fire. The forest will send a helicopter over the area later today, to check for smoke from other angles. So nothing major, probably, but it made for an interesting night.
And unfortunately, this is my last morning at Baptiste for the season. I'm frantically packing and cleaning, and I'll probably start the hike down sometime after the morning radio check-in. The couple who are staffing the next hitch -- the final one of the summer -- will be here later this afternoon. I'm going to miss this place, a lot.
Addendum: Helicopter Eight Charley Mike located our smoke report about 10:15 this morning -- it's still burning. They're landing on the ridgetop right now with a couple of firefighters to put the fire out before it grows. Another successful day in the Forest Service!
Addendum #2: I listened to the Forest Service radio as I was hiking out, to get some updates on the fire. About 11:30 or so, the fire's IC (Incident Commander) called in a Type 3 helicopter to do bucket drops of water on the fire, and that mostly took care of things. The fire was officially declared out at about 3:30, and another helicopter was called in to retrieve the fire crew.