As we concluded the best Private Idaho event to date, the forceful winds and extreme temperatures that riders experienced on Sunday pushed the Ross Fork fire aggressively through the Sawtooth Mountains toward my home community.
Without pause, Greg and I quickly exchanged our event support uniforms for firefighter gear. The blaze was bearing down on our neighborhood with very few resources in place for protection.
A few friends came to help move fire fuels from around the house, throw valuables into vehicles, take pictures for insurance, and get out safely. Greg and I stayed and watched the flames dance and swirl from only a quarter mile away. Our friend and retired fire captain Tom McLean took fire watch for us so we could get some sleep. We knew we'd need to be strong for the coming days, because the fire was not going to wait.
Monday's strong winds and high temperatures fueled the blaze even more. Thankfully teams began to arrive from Ketchum, Sun Valley, USFS, and other areas for structure protection and wildland fighting. High winds made air support unfeasible. The ground crews did what they could to build fire lines around the community, but the fire jumped the lines in several places. As members of Smiley Creek Volunteer Fire Department, we spent Monday morning laying hoses into the driveways around the community for structure defense. Almost every full-time resident in this area is also a volunteer in the fire department, so we all readied our own homes as best we could by cutting trees and running sprinklers. Our department's primary role was to provide water supply for the other fire rigs. Greg and I were grateful to have firefighting knowledge and training to put to use, but it's hard to explain what it felt like to be defending our own home this time. We spent Monday afternoon fighting to protect our community. Sadly, two structures were lost, but many others right in the line of fire were miraculously saved. It's been an exhausting and emotional week, watching the mesmerizing and terrifying destruction.
The Ross Fork fire has currently burned over 35,000 acres, has over 600 people working on site, and has been elevated to a type 2 incident. The fire continues to burn at only 2% containment. Our small community is under less of a threat right now, but huge swaths of the forest around us is burning and under siege.
Seven days after completing RPI #10, the best one yet, I finally have a moment to reflect on the creation of that ride, born 10 years ago among the ashes of the Beaver Creek Fire. I'm so proud of what we have accomplished, and now that the smoke is starting to clear and perspective has shifted, we can breathe a sigh of gratitude for our safety, our homes, and the amazing Be Good transformation that we have mobilized together.
The forest is destroyed and devastated, visually transformed on the outside, while we are transformed on the inside. What we cannot yet see in the black landscape or in ourselves are the growth and creation that always follow the flames. The forest will renew and regenerate stronger than before, and so will we.