Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Heading into the Eclipse Apocalypse

August 21st holds a special place in firefighting history. It is the date of the Big Blowup of 1910, when 87 people died across Idaho and Montana when massive winds fanned thousands of tiny fires in tinder dry forests (also after a wet, snowy winter). Primitive firefighting was no match for the flames, and most of the fatalities were firefighters caught in the inferno. Multiple towns were wiped completely off the map, and the then-booming metropolis of Wallace, Idaho, was evacuated among harrowing conditions that saw 2/3 of the town burn down.

...In 2017, however, I fear the worst. I fear hundred to thousands of tiny fires started by eclipse-watchers being blown up by dry, hot winds that are common in the west this time of year. I fear people panicking and trying to evacuate, then getting into accidents that block narrow, single-lane mountain and rangeland roads. I fear hundreds of people trapped in their cars, overtaken by flames, and no way to rescue them or suppression resources to save them. I fear we will finally see the wildfire that kills over 100 people, or many, many more.

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