August had been magical. Except for the fires. There were at least three that started in the general vicinity the Bobcat fire came from, and at least two very large fires in the north. How could you forget something like that in the space of a year? Because the Bobcat fire.
Redbird Ranch sits in a bowl, surrounded by hills and peaks, at the end of a campground road. The terrain offers seclusion, and absolutely no way to see a fire coming except by the smoke. And there had been so much smoke already.
The fire broke out around 1 PM on a hot holiday weekend. September 6, if memory serves. Grace and Skye were indoors. Grace was on a creative whirlwind, and she'd gotten the idea to create sets of show ring and barn topiary. But not just a few sets. Her goal was fifty sets. Painting the pottery was so much fun and it was something Skye could easily be included in.
People stopped in throughout the day. There was a general consensus that the fire was not a threat, at least not yet. The smoke plume loomed large in the sky but so had the plumes from other fires. This one, though...somehow this one looked just a little more menacing.
In the evening the color emanating from the fire was concerning. Had the other fires given off this intense glow? It seemed so close. Then someone messaged a link to the Mount Wilson Observatory web camera. Now, why no one from Redbird Ranch had thought of that is kind of a mystery. The cameras mounted on the telescope show real time data to the public 24/7. It should have been the first thing that we checked. But that's the trouble with these kinds of events. You don't always think straight. One look at the fire from the web cam and there was no more waffling about what to do. Evacuation procedures began.
It was midnight when we left the mountain. Rounding the last corner of the campground road, we were confronted by flames less than a mile away. In addition to horses, cameras, electronic items and art, there was a young dog four days out of a major surgery, a sixteen year old dog, a great big healthy dog, and two cats that didn't travel well. It was hot. And the wall of flames stretched to our eastern flank for a full five miles. It was surreal. The urge to stop and take pictures was strong...but the animals. They were already suffering with the heat, the stress, and the very obvious problem. Their forest was on fire. For as far as they could see.
Only one picture remains from the day of the fire. There were many more. There was video. Somehow, in the month-long evacuation, in the extreme heat, the young dog developing a ghastly, growing flesh wound that turned out to be third degree burns from the heating pad used during surgery and other stressors too numerous to mention, the images were lost. All but one. This is what the fire looked like from Redbird Ranch just several hours after it started.
Grace's honeymoon phase was over.