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Big Creek Forest Fire - The Burial

Log Cabin
Harvey and Violet's log cabin escaped the fire's wrath
August 10, 2006 - 9:00 AM

The Big Creek forest fire was petering out by the time it reached Harvey and Violet's log cabin. The fire burned the trees in back, scorched the trees in front but left the cabin unscathed. I contacted their daughter Coleen after the fire and she graciously allowed me to rent the small home on a monthly basis. Reminders of the fire were everywhere but I was close to my old home, just 3/4 of a mile away, and thus felt comfortable and secure. I was grateful to be out of the Super 8 motel, my home for the past few weeks.

Moving in was easy for everything I owned fit in the back of my Jeep. The cabin was vacant for several years and needed some cleaning. I settled in quickly and started to purchase the goods of everyday life. It felt good to develop a routine and have a place to rest my head while I thought about building a new home and a new life.

Jeep Rubicon 2004
Everything I owned fit in the back of my Jeep
Log Cabin Kitchen
My log cabin kitchen
 
August 24, 2006 - 9:00 AM
Mike Adkins Excavation
Mike Adkins guides a John Deere
excavator down my driveway

Ifelt grateful to be alive but deeply saddened to bear witness to the burial of my home and business. Mike and Jack used a John Deere excavator and bulldozer to peel away the remains of my home, the garage and Branford Bike from the soot covered, coal black earth. Over the course of the day, Mike and Jack loaded the remains onto dump trucks, whose next stop was the local landfill.

Deere in a burned forest
A Deere seen through a burned forest
A new driveway
A 360 degree loop is added to the
existing driveway for easier access
John Deere levels trees
The powerful John Deere excavator
snaps 12 inch trees like toothpicks
 
Garage Demolition
The excavator tears into the garage

Mike deftly pulled the garage roof and steel walls away so I could search for anything salvageable. I found nothing but more ash in the garage. Not a single charred book nor a useable bike part survived the blast furnace inferno. Even the thick aluminum snow plow was half melted. Nothing was spared.

Fire wood for neighbors
The fallen trees are neatly stacked and eventually
will be shared with neighbors for firewood
Century old Douglas Fir
A century old Douglas Fir snaps in
the excavator's jaws
 
Branford Bike Destroyed
Jack turns towards the charred remains
of my home and Branford Bike

After lunch Jack turned the excavator towards the concrete lined fire pit that once housed Banford Bike. Like Mike, he carefully pulled away the heavier wreckage and then allowed me to search for goods in the ashes. Partially melted Campagnolo crank arms littered an area that used to be a storeroom. Nearby a rusting teapot from the 1st floor kitchen rested on the basement floor. I carefully poked through the rubble. All I could salvage were a few burnt baby spoons. Everything else was destroyed.

 
Dust Rises from Branford Bike
The walls come down...

By late afternoon the remains of my home, Branford Bike and the garage were loaded onto trucks and hauled away. I picked up a few melted crank arms and buried them under the old garage. I saved a couple of other items that I will bury under the foundation of the new house. A new home will rise from the ashes of my old home; my castle. I will call it "Phoenix Castle" after the mythological bird that first rose from the ashes.

Brooks Saddle Remains
The remains of a handmade Brooks bicycle
saddle sit on the remains of Branford Bike
Phil Wood Bottom Bracket
Campagnolo titanium cassette cogs and a Phil Wood
bottom bracket were pulled from the rubble
 
My dream home in Montana
Concrete rubble and twisted steel

Isurveyed the wreckage that was my dream home in the mountains. I worked for 30 years before I could afford to live in such a beautiful place. I wiped a tear and said good-bye to what once was. Now it was time to dream again; to dream of what life could be like in the future. I did not want to get drawn into the bitterness of what my life could have been like if the fire did not happen. It happened; I saw, felt and tasted every horrible moment. Now it was over and it was time to move on with my life. As I slowly walked back to the log cabin, I mourned for all that was lost but started to dream of all that could be. Tomorrow, the sun and I would rise together. A new day and a new life would begin.

Destroyed home and yard
Looking back while walking to the log cabin
A new day and new life
The sun rises through a smoke filled sky;
a new day and a new life begins

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