Fire broke out at Brian Head just below the ski resort. That was a week ago – on Saturday, June 17. On that fateful day my wife, Lou, and I were the only camp staff evacuated from Thunder Ridge Scout Camp where we were to serve for the summer. Since then, things have not been the same – nor will they be. The fire has been atrocious and is still raging wildly out of control.
Here are some photos of the fire – taken by Brad Hancock of Sunstonephotos. Though of a major catastrophe, they are beautiful and show the majesty and terror of a wild fire out of control.
After we were evacuated from Camp Thunder Ridge, I took two camp staff men – Jason and Michael – and we headed up to work for the week at Camp Scofield – near Price in east-central Utah. As with all Thunder Ridge staff and campers, we continued to follow the fire and its deadly raging around Brian Head and Camp Thunder Ridge. All week long we wondered how the camp was faring through the fire.
Then we read the article Brian Head Fire Causes Minimal Damage to Scout Camp written by Kevin Jenkins of The Spectrum in St. George. There was good and bad news.
“As flames closed in on an Iron County Boy Scout camp Tuesday night near Brian Head, wildland firefighters entered the grassy bowl atop the mountain and began working to protect the structures and equipment abandoned by the youth service organization. …
So, the bad news was that the fire hit Thunder Ridge. And then the good news. Says Jenkins: “It kind of swept around both sides of the camp and kept on going. It burned some trees and it knocked some trees down on the road. But we think the damages are minimal. … They were in there fighting it from inside that bowl.”
And after this article was published, we were all left to figure out what all that all meant. Were the campsites burned? What about the camp structures? And the large nylon staff “Bare Bones” tents? Did they burn? And what about the stuff in them?” And for me personally, “Did I lose my collection of hand-carved bolo ties – carved by Bill Burch and many of his proteges … and my wife’s purse?”
We talked to a few folks – including one officer who had kind of taken on our Camp Thunder Ridge as his personal project. His pride in protecting and preserving the camp was quickly evident. We were directed to the ICP Commander. Hearing our story, he said that we could not go up to the camp. But he did say that officials from the Boy Scouts had been escorted up to the camp a while before. And he said, “Maybe if you wait at the corner, you might see them coming down.”
And then we saw them! A great sight! The council leaders came down toward us in a grand caravan. They had a trailer on a truck and several vehicles. The camp ranger was able to get his large RV (undamaged by fire) off of the mountain – as well as his/the camp’s 4-wheel ATV (used to service the camp) out of camp on a trailer. Larry Hall, our Shooting Sports Director, drove the camp truck and in it was a multitude of black plastic bags. He had gone into the staff tents (which had fire retardant all over them – and a few coal ember holes – but otherwise miraculously saved by the firemen) and had stuffed staff bedding and other nearby stuff – into the black bags.
Larry stated that the staff tents were all okay. He said that a few had minor holes from flying embers and that the tents were covered in a bright red from the fire retardant that was used to protect them.
And my own personal miracle was that Camp Director, Nick Hutchinson, was able to get my Bill Burch bolo tie collection – which was saved and retrieved from my tent – along with my wife’s purse which she had left in the tent. Wow! Were we ever excited and grateful! We don’t know if Larry was able to get our bedding and other stuff but I guess time will tell.
I took Jason to his home in Cedar City. I then drove with Michael and got him connected to his family at the Pilot Station at Bloomington. (He is from Beaver Dam, Arizona.)
I drove to the home of my son in Washington. As I got to K.C.’s place, I knocked on the door and as my wife, Lou, came to the door, I stood there with my bolo ties in one hand and her purse in the other.
She said that was exactly how she had pictured me arriving. She was very glad to see me and the valuables saved from the fire. She later commented that she could smell the smoke on her purse from across the room. I said, “Just keep the smell and be grateful!”
And we are deeply grateful to all who helped to save and protect our beloved Camp Thunder Ridge. Thank you firefighters and all at the ICP – and the many agencies from far and wide. Thank you! Thank you for the miracles! Scouts of generations will forever be grateful to you!
Selected photos @2017 and courtesy of photographer, Brad Hancock, of Sunstonephotos. You can view his photos at sunstonephotos.com or connect on Instagram @Sunstonephotography.
Best wishes along your Scouting Trails …
Author: Kevin Hunt | #thescoutblogger, Scouting Historian, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Scouting Veteran, and Camp Director
See this link for an introduction to Kevin the Scouting Trails Blogger. Blogging articles have excerpts taken from Kevin’s many personal journals and Scouting Trails books including “MR. Scoutmaster!”, “Keys to Scouting Leadership,” “Gnubie to Eagle Scout”, and others at his Scoutingtrails website. Connect with Kevin and read his articles on Scouting blogsites such as The Boy Scout, The Scouting Trail and the Voice of Scouting. Feel free to comment on anything you read! Find Kevin on Facebook at: Scouting Trails Books and Blogs.
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