Posts Tagged ‘wildfires’
After the 10-acre early morning fire of May 16, 2009, I am comforting Dominoe. I was there before the Fire Department, and I put out the entire left flank of the fire, alone. 100-feet more and it would have burned a cattery with 150 cats inside!
When the L.A. County Fire Department got their engines to the above scene, the wind-driven fire was moving toward our sanctuary. They brought in a helicopter, four engine companies, and a bulldozer to fight it.
And when the smoke cleared, they were stunned to see me alone in the field 300-feet away, having knocked down the left flank with a fire pump I had installed only the day before! This story made front page of the Antelope Valley Press Sunday paper the next day.
We have five fire pumps at our properties, each running off a water tank. We have this self-protection for only two reasons.
Number one is that it will take fire companies at least 20-minutes or more to arrive on scene of a fire where we are located. That is what happened on May 16 above. The fire was nearly at our cattery. If I were three minutes later we would have lost the entire structure and all those innocent lives.
The second reason is during a firestorm, when fire companies are spread thin . . . and many structure firefighters from the cities are on the wildland fires . . . which they are not used to. I know our geography and how to protect our animals. We are in gear by the time they arrive.
But during a firestorm, we need help! If the fire companies are spread so thin that they can only tell us to evacuate . . . which happened during the Station Fire three months after the May 16 fire . . .
. . . they are in shock when we tell them we have to shelter in place. With 1,500 animals and hospitals full of patients, we have no choice. There is no place to evacuate to anyway!
Let me tell you my worst nightmare, August 29 & 30, 2009 . . . .
Here’s the first sign of trouble. After an all night vigil, and the fire laying down in the morning, by noon it flared up . . . and the wind was blowing toward our sanctuary!
I made sure all our fire pumps were ready and hose lines laid out. But we can only pump a few hundred feet with a hose line, and we have 115-acres to protect! There was no way to get to a hot spot if it flared up.
Knowing the wind direction, we moved our dogs out of the path of the fire head, which a visiting engine Captain told me was aiming right at us!
Our sanctuary is cleared of interior brush, but the mountains around us are thick with it Our dogs were at least 100-yards from any approaching heat. But I had to hope some fire engines could be freed up to help us fight the flames when they came.
I took the photo below from our dog yards closest to the approaching fire. When I saw the flames lighting up a mountain with free roaming cows on it, I was sick with the tragedy. And I also knew that I was risking my life if I tried to defend our sanctuary.
Now my confession . . . .
I called my then 10-year-old daughter who was watching the fire on TV. She was worried about me. It was then that I told her the only lie I have ever told her . . .
. . . I said I was having fun “playing fireman” and that everything was okay. TV made it look bad to get an audience!
She asked how long I would be there, and I said I would be home for supper. She felt better and put her mother on the phone.
I told her mother to turn off the TV, that there was a 50-50 chance I would not make it out alive. From the hilltop I was on, watching the flames approach my life’s work, and 1,500 souls who trusted me to keep them safe as I had promised . . .
. . . I had made the decision not to lose even one animal without a fight to the death.
My heart sank when I saw this tanker drop fire retardant around the other side of the mountain where the fire head would go after it hit us. But he never dropped any in front of us where the fire was headed.
The one fire engine had left us when they were called out to another assignment. I was utterly alone.
What saved us that day was luck. About five-minutes before the fire head would be on top of us, the wind abruptly changed direction, by an act of God, from Southwest to due West!
Little did I know at the time, but that’s why the plane dropped retardant on the other side of our mountain. These fire commanders knew the wind was shifting and they responded before it shifted! That air drop saved the southern edge of our sanctuary from being hit by flames from behind that last mountain.
The Station Fire burned for almost two months and burned 251 square miles. Two firefighters were killed on the mountain that burned right in front of us. 209 structures were destroyed, including 89 homes. After the fire I took a photo of a cremated horse a mile from our sanctuary, and I sadly realized that this could have been the cremated remains of 1500 dogs, cats and horses.
I never want to go through that again. But the facts are not going to make that wish hold up. This is the sixth driest year in history. We have already had a deadly firestorm 10-miles north of us . . . and eventually, this year or in 2020, 2030 or 2050 and beyond . . . our sanctuary will be threatened again.
Stationary fire pumps are an asset and they protect our hospital and catteries. But they cannot get to the flames in the sanctuary where our dogs and horses live. That’s why, with your help, I am starting our own D.E.L.T.A. Rescue Fire Department!
We need a fire engine of our own to respond to flare ups, wherever they are on the property.
And we need a second engine to shoot fire retardant in advance of the fire! This is the same retardant that they drop from those planes, but I can order it without the red dye.
If we knew we were in the path of a fire, or even months before a fire started, we could spray retardant all around our sanctuary to keep the burning embers from igniting our trees and burning the brush all around us.
In my research, I am learning a lot, and I am even looking into ways YOU can have retardant available to spray the trees and bushes around YOUR home, so they don‘t burn in a fire and your home will be spared!
In a famous San Diego fire, homeowners who knew about the retardant, and who sprayed the brush around their homes, watched their neighborhood burn to the ground while their homes were spared.
This is the beginning of something huge. Your animals are as important to me as our own. Firestorms taking homes are also killing pets. From our example of defending our sanctuary, word will spread and homeowners will learn about what is available to them too.
So please help us buy the two fire engines we need to both fight the fires and to cover our sanctuary with fire retardant when there is a threat. Please send your most generous gift today.
For the animals,
Leo Grillo, founder
Dedication & Everlasting Love To Animals
Used fire engines like the one above cost about $50- $80,000. We are hiring part-time firefighters to run those engines too. Fire retardant is about $7,000 a year. For the future as well as now, this will keep our animals fire safe. Please send your extra gift now.