I have been asked many times why I chose the path I did of the fire service when I had reached the age to drive. Including on a winter evening in 1987 at my interview to get on the Boulder Creek Fire Department (the infamous panel that included Dan Kuhnlein and Pep Rocca). My answer follows in a short story version, but this time I get to share the pictures of that day few people get to see outside the family.
This is the home I grew up in that my dad built, and (as most of you know and visit) has been called Meadowood since inception c. 1973, for our now 5th generation family ranch (1st:great grandma Lyon, 2nd:Grandparents Robechaud, 3rd:mom & dad, 4th:me, 5th:my kids).
Top pic was winter 1985, bottom pic is June 1986.
We had a large family reunion on Saturday June 7th, held in part to honor the matriarch of my mom’s family who also lived on Meadowood. Some of you have heard my story of not being able to sleep the night of June 8th and into the morning of the 9th (which I had never experienced that issue really). That Monday was finals day at SLV High School, and without divulging too much into how miserable my freshman year already was – I tried to convince my dad I wanted nothing to do with school that day. I was tired and something had kept me up all night. He said no way. The parents were building another home at our subdivision at the Boulder Creek Golf Course so I could not be home alone and sick, especially during finals. We will never know how things might have been different had I stayed home and slept, but we all left to be about our busy days by 8 AM. At approximately 10:34 AM, this was the scene that had come to change our lives indefinitely (taken by a relative staying at the other Meadowood house above ours).
The smoke was seen all the way to Scotts Valley. Now, I had heard the smoke rumor ever since that day, but it never really sunk in until 20 years later; A gentleman walked into my video store in Ben Lomond and handed me a picture he took from the Safeway shopping center on that June 9th, and sure enough there was the column of smoke (was a strange trigger for me to see a version of something you thought you had seen from every possible angle). It was already a hot summer morning so the fire was spreading around the nearby grasslands. People were stopping on the highway and a bleacher-style row of gawkers filled the hill above our burning home.
Pictured here was part of the first wave of firemen from Boulder Creek to arrive, and unfortunately within short order a fireman was injured and had to be taken to Dominican (I have always thought this picture shows him being helped away from where he was overcome).
The alarms were sent through most of north SC county for help, and there were so many actions taken that day and afterwards by the firemen and officers that could be a book all in themselves. The only one I will mention here at the moment is Ricky Gehrmann. I thank you for everything you did that day, not sure if I ever conveyed that enough (that is why you have always had my support for everything in our time shared at BCFD). Having been on the other side for the next 20 years, I know things go wrong on big fires, one of those always have/always will kind of things. People got hurt, there never seemed to be enough water, quite a few animals died both in and around the house, and in the end – the entire home, barn and surrounding outbuildings were destroyed.
This was taken some time later as the fire worked its way around the buildings, this is the barn and stalls.
To keep this from prolonging into a mesh of fire, personal and Meadowood histories, sufficed to say my path was made clear to me on that day. It took 18 months to figure out how to get on BCFD, followed by 18 years of doing something I loved every day. Meadowood was rebuilt, grandma passed away 6 months later, and life as they say continued.
I often think I should find another way to help those affected by fire, just not sure how yet. I eavesdropped on a conversation between two dads at my daughter’s soccer game this fall, one of the guys was talking about losing their home in a firestorm in Southern California a few years back. The other guy was asking the worst questions you could to someone who has lost so much. When I interjected with questions only those that have gone through it would understand – they were taken aback. He opened up into a flood of things he apparently has never been able to share with someone. Hmmmm…anyway – this picture represents the next 30 days of salvaging and receiving help from those that stepped up when they didn’t have to…Todd Hitchman is crouched down digging next to me. He also got on the same fire department just before me.
Thanks for reading…guess it helps to share sometimes. Plenty of stories from that day I have been privy to, including ones from Sam, Bud, Scott Lipperd, Randy Robison, Ricky Gehrmann, Chris Harper, Carl Kustin, Tim West and a few others. I thank everyone that was there, even the engine that would become my secret love in life – 2110; your first big fire, and if it is any solace I was one of the most vocal proponents for YEARS to get your hosebeds changed to a modern distribution so days like my home burning would see you at the fire, not at a hydrant..*wink wink*.