Here’s Your Sign…..”

Source:  Magic Valley ATV Riders, Inc. Monthly Newsletter, September, 2013, reprinted with permission, Stan Mai, President.

After arriving at the Pine on Thursday, we set up camp and started to settle in for a much anticipated ATV ride along the Boise River, among the pine trees and up to Goat Lake. At that time my only concern were of the two new fires we noticed just north of Fairfield. I figured at most, we would have a little smoke in the air to contend with during our two day ride and anticipated some very nice sunsets for the coming evenings. Here’s Your Sign #1.

Above Featherville, Idaho, 2006.

Above Featherville, Idaho, 2006.

Friday morning I left camp early to help the Forest Service post 6 new signs on the Kelly ATV Loop trail. I had stopped at the Fairfield office the day before and thanks to Steve Frost was given the signs. This was a big win for all ATV riders in that the signs specify that portions of the Kelly Loop are One-Way travel only. As I was getting into the RZR to leave camp, I noticed the seats were covered in ash. This seemed odd in that the Fairfield fires were over 40 (road) miles away. Here’s Your Sign #2.

During my time on the trail, it did seem unusual that the amount of smoke now filling the valleys was more then what I would have expected from a fire that was 40 miles away. Here’s Your Sign #3.

After posting the Forest Service signs, I returned to camp about 3 pm but was surprised to see that Dixie had not yet arrived. She had mentioned previously that she had planned to arrive by noon. Here’s Your Sign #4.

After hearing that the town of Pine had lost electrical power, that yet another fire was much closer than I was aware of, and that the Forest Service was positioning fire fighters in Pine, I drove to town to ask some questions. Here’s Your Sign #5.

After talking with the Forest Service staff and several “locals,” I was told that a section of Highway 20 had already been closed. Here’s Your Sign #6……. the North Pine

Featherville Road (Fh 61) at Curlew Creek was now blocked off and no traffic was being allowed to enter the area. Here’s Your Sign #7…… that the Forest Service was considering if an evacuation of Pine was needed. Here’s Your Sign #8……. that the best option for leaving the area was to drive east over Couch Summit. Here’s Your Sign #9.

As a long time resident of northern Wisconsin, admittedly, I have very little experience with forest fires. However, what I have learned from the yearly lake effect snow storms that run through Lake Superior, is that when an escape route is no longer available to you, its time to consider if you really need to be wherever you’re at. Here’s Your Sign #9.

As I was driving from Pine back to our camp, I looked over by left shoulder. What I now could see were much darker smoke clouds and a very distinctive “reddish” tone in the clouds just above the hills. Here’s Your Sign #10.

Arriving at camp, I advised the other MVATV members of the facts at hand and then decided that its time to admit that I really don’t need to be where I’m at, and its now time to get out of Dodge. Here’s Your Sign #11.

As we crested the top of Couch Summit, we could “actually see” the fires coming over the hill from that Fairfield fire I had seen earlier in the week. It wasn’t until we reached the bottom of the hill that we passed a County Sheriff that was stopping all traffic attempting to come up the mountain. The road to Wells Summit was also closed to up hill traffic. Here’s Your Sign #12.

My thoughts go out to the folks in Pine and Featherville for having to go through this kind of stress yet once more. Let’s all hope they and their property are all unharmed.  –-Stan Mai, President, Magic Valley ATV Riders, Inc.