Among the father-son bonding activities that people frequently mention, putting out a forest fire (and, likely, preventing the destruction of the watershed around a large mountain lake), isn’t at the top of everyone’s list. But DNR Heavy Equipment Operator Tony Holt of Concrete, Washington, and his son got that unique opportunity late last week while on a fishing trip Baker Lake in Whatcom County.
The father/son team earned numerous compliments after their adventure was shared by KOMO News. And DNR is thankful, too: both for the Holts’ fast thinking and for their safe handling of the situation (which included calling 911, of course).
Here’s how Tony describes the events of Thursday night and early Friday (July 25-26):
Crazy Sleepless Night on Baker Lake
On Thursday evening, July 25, my eldest son and I launched our boat at Swift Creek on Baker Lake. We headed up the lake to Noisy Creek where we were going to park the boat and sleep until 4:30 a.m. and start fishing.
As the night progressed, we saw what appeared to be a small campfire across the lake. After a while we said, ‘Look, they really have a big campfire going; must be a party.” About 11:30 p.m., it started getting bigger, and we realized it was a forest fire! I rushed my boat over to the shoreline where the fire was burning. By then it had spread and torched a big, standing cedar tree. I backed my boat close to shore and started hosing the fire with a 75-foot jet spray through a 4-inch nozzle, powered by the 110 HP jet pump on the boat motor.
We battled the fire until 4:15 a.m., knocking down hot spots and keeping the surrounding underbrush soaked. Had we not done that, the fire would have spread and who knows how much damage and forest would have burned.
A helicopter from Highline Helicopters dropped several buckets of water on the torched tree and the smoldering areas that I could not reach with the jet.
Since I love that wilderness area so much, I just couldn’t turn a blind eye to the situation. I was so relieved to see my efforts paid off. Needless to say, I was too tired to fish that morning bite and had burned most of my fuel battling the blaze.
My fishing trip was cut short but it was all worth it, in my eyes, to help save our beautiful forested Baker Lake recreation area.
Tony R. Holt lives in Concrete and is an equipment operator for DNR’s Northwest Region.
DNR has issued a statewide burn ban on all lands under its protection (about 9 million acres ) through September 30. The ban applies to all forestlands in Washington State, except federal lands, and prohibits campfires in all state, local and private campgrounds.
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