June 20, 2015

Lake Fire


Four years ago at about this time (almost midnight) I was driving back to Big Bear Lake after a night spent owling near Fish Creek, in the San Gorgonio Wilderness area of the San Bernardino National Forest. My fellow birders and I were hoping to see (or hear, more likely) a Flammulated Owl. That's a grown one in the photo above. So small! After prowling the forest roads for a while, we finally heard our owl calling in the old-growth conifers at Mission Springs. It was pitch dark — a wonderful night.

This owling trip has been on my mind the last couple days, because the whole area — the meadow I photographed on the drive in; the forest we traveled through; Aspen Grove trailhead (Violet-green Swallows, Dusky Flycatcher, Green-tailed Towhee...); Fish Creek (Western Tanager, White-headed Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadees, Common Poorwill...); Mission Springs, where we finally heard the little Flamm — all of it is on fire, burned, burning, gone up in smoke, gone up in flames. The Lake Fire ("Incident Description: Moderate Rate Of Spread With Active Torching And Crown Fire Runs") was 16,000 acres in size at last count, and just 15% contained. 

I have a cabin in the San Bernardino National Forest, and fires like this scare the crap out of me. I hope firefighters will stay safe. I hope cabins don't burn. My heart aches for the nestlings too young to fly, the mule deer fawns, the bear cubs. There is no good time for a forest fire, but a big fire at this time of year seems especially cruel. I hope as many of the forest dwellers as possible make it through safely.  

Wildhorse Creek and Wildhorse Meadows to the north, Hell For Sure Canyon to the south. We are not in New England. Aspen Grove, Fish Creek, and Mission Springs, where we heard the little owl, have all burned. Here's the InciWeb link again, and #LakeFire on Twitter.


  1. I am so worried about the aspens. They are so special to us in southern California. They are struggling to survive so far from home, the nearest outpost being in Tulare County. They are a place of pilgrimage for many of us. What with the dryness and the heat (or better said, less winter cold) and now the fire, what will happen?

    1. Jane, I'm very worried, too -- I do think the area got quite a bit of rain in the last storm, for whatever that's worth.

      From the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association on Facebook, late Sunday night: "just saw a post from an AO firefighter that the aspen grove area was burned over but they didn't know how intense the fire was. The intensity is a big factor. Aspen trees grow as a single organism. If the fire was of low intensity then the roots may have survived and the trees could regrow as early as next spring. It doesn't seem like we will enjoy the Autumn color show this year though."

      Here's SoCal Hiker's guide to Aspen Grove. Kind of a read-it-and-weep link :~(

      My sister is at the cabin in Big Bear and has been organizing supply donations for the firefighters. She and friends took a ton of items to the Incident Command Center yesterday [*is very proud of sis*].

  2. Wildfire season is always worrisome, but this year is so much worse. All we can is hope, hope, hope that we'll make it through without a disaster of even bigger proportion.

    1. Amen. I'm following El Niño news like you wouldn't believe :~/

  3. So worrisome for the wildlife and the firefighters--hoping against hope for a summer that turns abnormally cool.

    Here owls are of the barn variety. We here hoots in the night, a magical thing.


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