Move ahead two weeks and three days. Heavy cloud buildup. Buddy has connected and tested the field telephone so he can speak with the dispatcher, Jackson Miller. It is about 6:30 p.m A few drops of rain start to fall and Bud remembers that the rain gauge hadn’t been emptied since the last sprinkle when he got 0.12inches. Bud races out of the cabin, down the hill toward the gauge and as he’s tossing the water out, “Crack boom echo echo echo.” A blinding flash.
Without thinking Buddy is sprinting up the hill to the safety of the lightning-protected cabin of the lookout. When he gets his breath he looks out toward the place where the flash was.
Still shaking, he sees a wide, thin cloud of blue smoke wafting over the crest of the hill. He stands on the special stool with glass insulated feet and grabs the telephone receiver and cranks a handle:
“Fire flash, fire flash, fire flash this is Huckleberry Mountain!!!” he says, following the instructions he got in training.
A voice on the other end answered, “Hi Carl,” go ahead and chase the smoke. Wait — it’s probably just a cloud. Have much moisture?”
“Jackson, just a couple drops of rain. In fact I was….”
“Uh, stay where you are for now, Carl. I’ll call you back in a few.”
‘He doesn’t believe me,’ Buddy thought. He climbed up into the cupola, feeling glum. He saw a distant flash of lightning.
The phone in the cabin downstairs rang, so Buddy stepped onto the footstool and picked up the receiver. “Huckleberry,” he said.
“Uh, go ahead and chase out the smoke you saw,” a voice said.
“Okay, Jackson,” Bonde replied, and hung up the phone.
Carl’s firepack was leaning against the log wall. He grabbed his hat and the pickaxe everyone called a pulaski, and headed down the mountain toward the smoke. He was surprised at how close it was, less than 100 yards from the lookout. There he saw a tree that had been split from crown to root, still standing, with fire licking outside the split. Bits of burning material were scattered about the base of the tree.
He knew what to do. He sized up the fire to determine what to do first. Since the embers and twigs were burning in the forest duff, Buddy started digging a line around the area around the tree, including all of the burning embers, before chopping at the embers and cooling them in the dirt until they were out. Then he dug a trench with his pulaski to drop the burning tree into.
As wet as the forest was this early in the season, he knew he didn’t need any reinforcement from other fire fighters. Next he took the precaution of knocking down the smaller trees near the burning snag, dragging them out of range of the snag he was about to fell. After making the area ready, he notched the base of the snag on the side where he had dug the trench. Then he cut out a second wedge in order to make a hinge to steer the falling burning tree.
Finally, the tree began to tip, but the butt of the log hopped off its hinge and the snag fell crookedly into another tree that came crashing down so close to Carl that he tried to run downhill. Even then, he took a hit on his foot.