With a high-risk fire season knocking on the door of most of the Western U.S., at least some Del Norters are keeping an eye out to stay ahead of the flames.
Several calls were made to report smoke seen in Gasquet and even Smith River over the weekend; the smoke was ultimately traced back to the 6,800-acre Two Bulls Fire in Bend, Ore.
The fire-prevention-minded vigilance of a couple visiting Blackhawk Bar on the Smith River National Recreation Area on Saturday may have prevented a large wildfire.
Patricia Tiso and Scott Chapman had promised their granddaughter that they would take her swimming on the river during their wedding anniversary, but when the family arrived to Blackhawk Bar around noon on Saturday, there was a 15-foot-wide patch of ground smoldering at the site.
The heavy winds over the weekend brought little flames to life in the patch.
"It was just a small flame, like two inches, but that's enough to start a fire in the forest," Tiso said.
The couple used their ice chest and water bottles to douse the flames with water from the Smith before cutting the picnic short to alert authorities.
"We poured everything but the Capri Sun on there," Chapman said, adding that water boiled when it was poured on the smoldering ground, proving the fire's potential.
"Had we not gone down there,it could've been disastrous," Chapman said.
The couple went to a friend's house near Big Flat to report the fire, finally getting the report delivered via a Big Flat resident with just enough cell signal to make a call.
Mike Frederick, fire division chief of Smith River National Recreation Area, said that the fire report was appreciated and helped firefighters locate the site and douse it well enough to be declared extinguished. Frederick said the fire at Blackhawk was human-caused but is still under investigation.
A letter by Tiso about the incident can be found on today's Opinion page ("Carelessly left ember is a fire season warning for us," Page A4).
As for smoke from the Two Bulls Fire drifting into Del Norte County again, Frederick said that it did not appear likely in the next couple of days, judging by weather patterns, but things could change.
"It is possible that the smoke could drift over here again," he said.
For up-to-date information on current wildfires, visit the Incident Information System (InciWeb) atinciweb.nwcg.gov.
Reach Adam Spencer firstname.lastname@example.org .