As predicted, it rained Wednesday, for about five minutes, about 0930, just a spit, over in Scio, so said Daniel. Daniel knows a lot. He knows about the fluctuation in wheat prices the last few years. He knows how many acres of said grain his employer will plant this fall. He’s a camera buff who is especially fond of macro work. There is more and he readily shares this knowledge. He is one very nice young man.
I was out chasing grass seed field burns. Not at first. Initially, I went out in pursuit of fields already charred. Readers will recall that I had plans to hit the high country, to engage my 4WD in order to get to where I was going. Daniel would know that in actuality the most rugged terrain I might encounter would come after a road sign that read “Pavement Ends.” Washboard gravel roads.
Daniel surely knows that grass fields at higher elevations have a later growing season and would most likely be harvested, and therefore burned, at later dates than yesterday or two days ago, perhaps at about the same times the ones near our farm, also at about 1,000 feet above sea level. True, there was not much to photograph. Very few field and no fires. Shame, really, for I had brought my video camera along.
I had a grocery list, and soon a floorboard with two bags of provisions. As I drove home, clouds of smoke began to rise to the south. Surely, the yogurt would keep a bit longer.
Chasing these fires is not unlike pursuing a tornado, except the fires remain relatively stationary. Yet, if a fire is seen from a distance of more than three miles, by the time one gets near enough to see the flames, there are only smoldering embers. They go that fast, like a tornado. However, if one is lucky, as I was, one will see a road sign that reads “Controlled Burning Ahead,” and another that reads “Flagman Ahead Prepare to Stop,” with no plumes in sight.
I pulled over to speak to the flagger and asked if I could document the fire about to be set. A young lad with red hair. Sure, no problem. He wanted to know if I was for or against the burns without a hint of defensiveness to his tone. Friendly. Engaging. Daniel.
Daniel told me that meteorologists determine when burnings can take place, and that when the Department of Agriculture notifies a farmer a field can be burned, the burn must happen in a small window of time thereafter. He also told me that burns are done between 1500 and 1900 hours, no earlier or later. And, as the burn documentewd here progressed, he explained each aspect, the strategy and concerns. I could have asked many more questions, yet, after all, he had a job to do, a public to protect. I am most indebted.
The water truck sits out in the field as the fire begins. The driver is ready for action should something not go as planned.One lone fir in the grass field.
From 200 yards away. I kept my distance, more to just stay out of the burn crew's way.