There is Fire in the Sky Above Camp Thunder Ridge
Saturday morning, June 17th – dawned a beautiful day. I had to get up earlier than usual to eat and to be prepared to help our first week troops get checked out of camp. I went out of my tent and was in total amazement of the beautiful sunrise in front of me. It was truly magnificent. (There was then no indication that the day would later change to the cry of “fire in the sky”.)
Later as I was checking out a troop campsite, I looked in the opposite direction (to the southwest) and was again amazed as I looked at the beautiful camp that I have grown to love so much. I loved the lodge, the commissary cabin, and everything else in my view.
I got all of my troops checked out by about 9:30 AM – as did my wife and fellow commissioner, Lou. We had a few staff duties to perform for the camp – all to “reset” the camp for the arrival of the next Scouts on Monday. With these tasks complete, parents of all younger staffers began to arrive to take their sons home for the weekend. And soon camp director, Nick Hutchinson and all other staffers were also gone.
We could have left with the staff, but being from faraway Arizona – and kind of lacking funds as the school salaries of the school season had faded – and as the camp funds hadn’t fully kicked in, we had decided that we would remain at camp for the weekend. As Nick and the leadership team were about to leave, Nick noted that they would lock the gate as they went out. Larry Hall, the Shooting Sports track leader said, “Better not lock the gate … the Hunts are still here and will be here all weekend.” And what if he hadn’t said that! Our car was parked in the parking lot outside of the gate … and we would have been locked inside – with our car locked on the outside! And we didn’t have the gate lock combination. Hmmm!
After all of the staff had left, Lou and I received visitors. It was my cousin Tonia Hunt Ashdown and her husband, Jon. Jon was scheduled to come to camp with his Troop 377 (of nearby Cedar City) the week following next week. He wanted to check out the place – and especially his campsite. We took a leisurely tour around camp and ended up at the lodge. We dined together on food from the “leftover” fridge. We were enjoying a wonderful visit together.
Suddenly, we heard the revving and honking of an ATV in the camp. “Who in the world is that?” I thought. My first thought was that it was some fool who was just intruding the camp. I arose and went to the door – with the intent at yelling to the guy to get out of our camp. I saw two guys on their machine heading toward the staff tent village. I yelled, “Hey!” and got his attention. He came zooming over to the lodge. He told us that there was a fire up toward Brian Head ski resort – and told us that it was only a mile away from us. He said that with a bit of wind, the fire could reach us in 15 minutes!
We looked up above the staff tent village and were aghast as we saw a giant wall of smoke – seemingly right behind our tents. That is when the adrenaline set in. We realized that our vehicle – and that of Tonia and Jon were both at the parking lot. Luckily, Tonia and Jon were able to ride in the back seats of the jeep/ATV type vehicle of the Sheriff guys who had come to warn us. They quickly went to bring the two vehicles down – while Lou and I frantically scrambled to bring some of our stuff out of our tent to be loaded when the cars returned.
What to take … (and in such a limited time to grab and go)? What were our priorities? We are from Arizona and Thunder Ridge was our summer home – so we had a lot of stuff in which to be comfortable for the summer. We didn’t want to spend the rest of the summer naked … so clothes were our first priority. I grabbed three blankets that had special family memories. We got our laptop computers – and Lou grabbed her curling irons and heater (which she’d just got at Deseret Industries for $5). I grabbed my walking stick collection. (Lou later lamented that she had forgotten her purse!) We left our bedding, clothing racks, and much more. As Tonia and Jon returned, we all frantically threw stuff randomly into our car. (And I felt bad that we were saving our stuff while staff stuff remained there.) It was a moment of panic.
We headed out of camp and as we went down the hill, Lou sent a group text to our children spread over the country – telling of our situation and that we were evacuating from the camp because of fire. They all immediately began to pray for us and our safety. I drove down the hill much faster than I would have preferred but we made it safely down (as did our tires).
At the end of the camp’s dirt road and at the oil road, we realized that we were safe and all was well. We stopped to take some photos of the wall of smoke to our left.
Sheriff guys came over and we told them that we were the last people to come out of the camp. They asked if the camp had any water that they could use for the fire suppression helicopters and I told them about our “Little Thunder Lake” and told them that they could draw water from the lake as needed (poor fish!). See my recent blog about our camp lake and our big fish story.
We headed down the mountain toward Parowan and noted at the edge of town that they had a total blockade across the road – not allowing anyone to ascend up Highway 143. We continued to watch the wall of smoke as we drove through Parowan and then onto the freeway toward Cedar City. Jon and Tonia had invited us to go to their home for the weekend but we decided to continue on to the St. George home of our son and family.
Wow! What an adventure. And now we have spent the week-end listening to – and viewing on our fire-saved computers – the news reports of the whole situation. At the present moment, it appears that the fire went south – instead of northeast toward Camp Thunder Ridge. We can only hope that this pattern continues – for the sake of the camp. I hope that we can all see many more beautiful sunrises over the eastern horizon over Camp Thunder Ridge. Let us all pray hard that our beloved Camp Thunder ridge will be preserved – even with the threat of fire in the sky around us. I believe in miracles …
[Late note: Fire reports indicate that at present (June 19) Camp Thunder Ridge has not been hit by the fire. The fire remains about two miles from camp.]
Best wishes along your Scouting Trails … Kevinthescoutblogger
Contact Kevin directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org