When I’m on fire watch I pay attention to the animals…and the smoke, and the wind. The birds’ behavior tells me a lot. This time I knew what to look for.
During the Martin Fire, it was the lizards that caught my attention. There seemed to be hundreds of them, where before there were only dozens.
The birds are not quite right. They miss landings in smoky conditions, their flight seems erratic, and they eat a lot. When I see a bird (who can fly away) having difficulty, I know it’s time to look sharply and walk carefully.
I was told to never run on a fire ground some years ago (by Santa Cruz City Fire Department Chief Wayne Peterson). With my hips nowadays, it’s easier to comply with that order.
The buckets of water I’ve placed around are turning into water troughs. We’re all thirsty from the smoke. Yesterday I saw a deer, a doe (or is that a doe a dear?) She drank out of one of my buckets right out front. I left her alone.
The quail in our meadow have been so tame. With fewer people around they seem to trust me more. This weekend I need them as much as they don’t need me. Some kind of symbiotic relationship I’m sure.
The animals give me more resolve to work on my ranch, to protect it and improve its infrastructure.
It’s hard to figure out what matters in a fire, but when everything comes out in the end, we are humans, we are survivors, and we do what we have to do.