Floriston: The little town that refused to burn down
August 5, 2004
Howdy from the town that refused to burn.Over the last few years it seems the words fire and Floriston just seem to go together. Not sure why, but it’s a claim to fame we would prefer to be without.I sat down to write a letter on a completely different topic, but as I sit and listen to the whoop whoop of helicopters, and once again marvel at the efficiency and effectiveness of the many firefighters building line and mopping up the latest burn, it’s difficult to focus on other matters. There they are; look hard and you’ll see them up on the hillside in the soot, smoke and heat.This fire was never a great threat to our town, just the dwindling view and backyard. But every one brings back memories of the “big one,” the Martis Fire. Standing on the roof seeing that wall of flame racing at the town left us all feeling helpless. We felt sure we would never see our town the same again. Evacuated to the freeway, the law enforcement seemed to understand how important it was to us to be there and allowed us to stay until they felt it was no longer safe. Many of us have been good neighbors and friends for many years. As we stood there trying to joke and cheer up one another, I think we all felt our town was doomed. Houses can be rebuilt and trees replanted. The thought that I couldn’t shake was who would and who wouldn’t rebuild. Most would move on and Floriston would never again be the same. Where would I ever find a place like this again? It’s the people who make a town. So many summer eves and winter blackouts and, yes, fires, have brought us all close together. We delight at the music of our neighbors Skilsaw and hammer and compliment one another’s yards as we all slowly work to improve our town and homes. Paradise is where you build it. Now we were about to lose it.Suddenly came that beautiful sound. Whoop whoop whoop and one small helicopter appeared. Without hesitation, he dipped his bucket and went to work. Flying like a mad hornet, it seemed apparent he knew it was up to him to hold the line until more help arrived. Then the first few engines arrived. Straight into town they immediately began dispersing to protect the structures. Then more engines, then the crew buses and they began with organization, efficiency and skill. Meanwhile, the Mad Hornet put on an aeronautical display that left us awestruck. Now more helicopters arrived and soon began working with him. They began to turn the fire and head it up the mountain, away from town. Floriston was saved.We began to return to town and found ourselves inundated with manpower. Firefighters cutting line, fire hoses strung, all working at their tasks. For days they quietly worked while we gathered on our decks to appreciate what we almost lost and admire the tremendous effort and organization it took to save it. With all the smoke, soot, ash and activity I think we all were a little bewildered and unsure how or what to say to express our thanks. But there they have been again, across the canyon. The whoop of helicopters, that line of firefighters as they have been over and over again.So whether you are cutting a line, hauling water or manning the engines, if you are staffing the chow hall, a crew chief or cleaning the porta potties, when the eye in the sky looks down upon you he will feel good about what he sees and all the people who make it work. From the residents of Floriston, a very grateful thank you, thank you, thank you.As for the Mad Hornet, whoever you are, wherever you are, we’d like to buy you a beer masked man. You’re one hell of a pilot! May all of you stay safe and walk tall. You’ve earned it.Jess Bailey wrote this column on behalf of the residents of Floriston.