Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Ralph On Fire - Running Bear

Arriving back at fire camp Bob came over and put his arm on my shoulder while asking if I was okay. I assured him I was. He then started laughing and said, “Well that’s was quite the adventure . . .”

In the late 1980’s I was on a fire in Colorado. On this particular fire I was working alone as a line scout. My job was to go ahead of the fire crews and mark where the fire line was to go. The terrain was steep and heavily wooded making it difficult to figure out the best location for the fire line because you could not see that far ahead. Several times I went back and corrected the location of the line because another route would be easier and more effective.
I made my way up the mountain. Then standing on top the ridge I looked down and saw a small meadow below. That makes it easy. I would work my way down the mountain and through the meadow.

I was just about to the meadow when I notice movement to my right. I looked over and saw two young bear cubs. That caused me to stop dead in my tracks! Given the time of year I knew the bear cubs were probably not alone and momma bear had to be close by. The bear cubs noticed me and briefly stopped playing. Now, I was nervous, really nervous. Slowly, with as little movement as possible I started looking around for momma bear. I finally spotted her to my left. She had not only seen me she was watching me very intensely. I was standing between a momma bear and her cubs – not a good place to be. That’s bad enough but to make matter worse I got a call on my hand held radio! I slowly reached down and turned the volume of the radio down then slowly lifted it up, hit the talk button and whispered, “Let me get back to you.” Because I was working alone it was important that I answer otherwise they would assume something had happened and would keep calling. Then if I didn’t answer they would send the nearest crew in to find me. The last thing I needed at that moment was to have a twenty person fire crew come charging over the mountain startling the bear more than I already had.

Slowly, and I do mean slowly, I started to back up. After about three steps the radio went off again. The momma bear moved causing me to immediately stop again. She hadn’t taken her eyes off me the whole time. Slowly, I lifted the radio up and whispered, “Let me get back to you I have a problem.” Well, that was the wrong thing to say. The radio went off again asking what kind of problem. I again whispered I would get back to them and then I shut the radio off. I slowly continued backing up and the momma bear kept watching me.

After what seemed like hours I had backed up about fifty feet to a large pile of rocks and slid behind it – out of sight from the bear but still not that far from her. I turned my radio on and called fire camp I knew they were trying to call me to make sure I was alright. This time Bob, the person I reported to came on the radio. I told him about being between the bear and her cubs. Bob gave me some advice on how to get out of there and reminded me that even though I might not be able to see the bear she would be watching me.

I left the rock pile fighting the urge to run. Slowly I made my way back to the ridge top. I radioed the fire camp and told them I was away from the bear and what direction I would be going. The communication guy on the camp radio asked what type of bear it was. I stared at the radio a moment before replying, “A big #$%^& bear.”

It took a few more hours to complete marking where the fire line was to be constructed. I was constantly looking around and pretty nervous the entire time.
Arriving back at fire camp Bob came over and put his arm on my shoulder while asking if I was okay. I assured him I was. He then started laughing and said, “Well that’s was quite the adventure . . . I think I’ll start calling you RUNNING BEAR”

To this day, whenever I see him he calls me Running Bear.


Blogger Peruby said...

It figures. Of course they never call when you need them to - but when you don't want them to call...there they are.

Glad you made it out of there.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Granny Annie said...

That makes Char "Little White Dove":)

5:52 AM  
Blogger Cliff said...

I knew about the nickname but I thought it was 'Running Bare' from that time you...oh, never mind.
Good piece Ralph.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Well, Running Bear, this was quite a post. You really had a scare I know! When one signs up for forest and fire duty is he/she imformed of the wild life dangers?

8:39 PM  
Blogger Mountain Mama said...

I can't imagine!! I just spent six weeks at a friends who lives in a densly wooded area with bears and all the other wild critters. He had an experience like yours and wouldn't even walk to his mail box again without his gun.
I'm glad you lived to tell us about your terrifying experience.

4:33 PM  

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