By Linda Martin
Usually I get no personalÂ phone calls while I’m at work. I’ve asked my family not to phone me unless it is an emergency. So I was surprised Monday to get two phone calls – both from media reps whoÂ located this news site for information on the Happy Camp fires, and who wanted more information. One was Tim Conroy,Â a newscaster for Channel 12 out of Medford, and the other was Heather Muller, a reporter for the Eureka Standard, who wrote an article: Local Cal Fire crews sent to Siskiyou fires.
The newscaster calling from Channel 12 in Medford wanted me to speak on the air, via phone. My first reaction was to refuse. I feel I’m not the person who should represent Happy Camp. There are many others who have been here much longer, or who have much better information about the fires. Plus I’m not much of a talker; I’d rather write. But the man convinced me toÂ speak as a private citizen, to give my impressions of what is going on here. I agreed to do it so he wouldn’t have to spend much time on the phone doing research to find someone willing to talk.
It was a painless experience though I expected that there would be peopleÂ in Happy CampÂ who disagreed with me, or didn’t like what I said. Getting negative comments from people who don’t like what you say or write is the price paid for doing anything in the public eye. However so farÂ I haven’t had any negative feedback regarding this shortÂ interview, so I have nothing to tell you about. If anyone is complaining, it isn’t me they’re complaining to.
I was announced as someone who was in the path of the fire. It sounded like the flames were bearing down on my house at that moment. However, though I’m in the area that may possibly be evacuated, from Doolittle Bridge to Chambers Flat, so far I feel fairly safe. It doesn’t bother me to go to sleep at night in the house.
I was asked how people in this town are reacting to the fire and said that people who have lived here a long time are not worried about it. They lived here at the time of the fire that threatened the town from Slater Ridge, in 1987, and aren’t panicking about what’s happening now. Even people whose homes are in the threatened neighborhoods are calm; they watch the fire from Elk Creek Bridge, or from Curly Jack Road, but nobody seems to be heading out of town. Only a few Elk Creek Road residents have been evacuated from an area eight miles south of town, due to the Titus Fire. So everything is calm here in Happy Camp.
I don’t think that’s what the newscaster wanted to hear, but it is accurate.
But you know how it is – when you’re in that kind of situation, you never manage to say the most important things – and those are the words that keep going through my head since then. So I decided to share those thoughts with you.
First of all, I wish I had said that Happy Camp will still be here after the fire. We’re not about to be burned off the map. Nobody expects that. A few outlying neighborhoods might get singed, but the thought of flames roaring through the streets of our town is something that most of us would laugh at. The town will survive just fine, and if you’re not a resident, we hope you’ll become a visitor after the smoke clears and the roads are opened again.
Second, I wish I had mentioned that Happy Campers are tough and rugged people, and that the flurry of fire fighting activity in our town doesn’t alarm us. Anyone living out here in the middle of the forest for any length of time is going to have to toughen up in many ways. For example, many of us, even women, chop wood all winter long to keep warm. We get used to driving eighty miles for things we need. Furthermore we’re very much used to seeing fire fighters and their trucks all through our town. This happens almost every year – though usually the fires are further away from town. A year without a huge fire nearby is unusual. So nobody is panicking or impressed by the number of fire trucks rolling through the streets of our town. It makes things more colorful with the bright red and pale green vehicles, and it gives us new and interesting out-of-towners to talk to – butÂ that’s about all. We’re not distressed; this feels like a normal summer to us.
Third – I wish I had said that Happy Campers whose homes are threatened by the fire are not especially worried because they have a lot of confidence in the professional fire fighting teams that have been brought in to protect us and our neighborhoods. We all think very highly of our District Ranger, Alan Vandiver, and since he has assured us that the personnel assigned to this fire are all top quality fire fighters, we’re sure that they’ll do whatever can be done to keep flames out of our town and away from our homes.