Sounds of Meeker

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Part 1: Wildfire

MEEKER | First, we hear the multiple ringing of the local Meeker siren calling in first responders. Then, the scream of fire engines setting off to help somewhere. Now, it is the distinct helicopter sounds that hover low over town. These are not the same sounds as the medical helis who transport local patients to specialized treatment elsewhere.

No, these helicopters transport water and other resource to fight wildfires. As I write this article, they are flying nonstop. If you hear the deep throated sounds of a slurry bomber, then the wildfires are really severe because these rare resources only get deployed to the worst conditions. 

Wildfire season is here yet again. I am just a citizen, but there is no need to consult the news or social media to understand that wildfire conditions nearby are profoundly serious. The sounds in the air tell me just how bad it is.

At the same time, I am grateful to hear these sounds because it means our “boots on the ground” firefighters are getting support from the air. And that in turn means the fires will be tamed sooner rather than later. Air support, however noisy, is saving property, protecting lives, with dedicated folks doing their best to quell these fires, especially in remote areas.

We are grateful to all the pilots who work endlessly to fly these machines, whatever it takes, until the fires are under control. Thank you also to all the firefighters who depart town with lots of noise then face fire and smoke. Behind them is another army of support, coordination, logistics, management, and many resources I do not know about. 

Left behind are family, children, friends who worry about their loved ones sent into harm’s way. It is a war of its own kind with no certain outcome. Let’s remember to support the families too and understand their angst as local or wildfires rage.

In this most recent set of fires, sounds also included a parade of trucks and transport units from second tier helpers from outside our fire district. As they chugged along Market Street to their tent city at the fairgrounds coming in or leaving for a shift, it was the sound of additional security. 

As I am updating this story, I ran into some of the BLM hot shots at the grocery today, swarming through like a set of bees quickly securing snacks before leaving town. This group came to Meeker all the way from Lakeview, Oregon, and seemed cheerful to have our local fires under enough control so their added expertise can roll to their next assignment.  Thank you and be safe out there.

On the plus side of life, it seems to me, all of us have learned lessons from wildfires of recent years. Our responders know more about how to coordinate resources, when to ask for more assistance, and how to deploy using best practices. I know many organizations held trainings in early spring to plan for and coordinate resources in anticipation of likely wildfire season.

We citizens may not be so prepared. Despite being warned two years ago, I still don’t have our family evacuation plans in place. I started some notes and actions, but never finished them when the fires died down. Well, I’m back to working on a game plan to evacuate if needed and I encourage you to do the same.

I didn’t intend to start my series of articles about “The Sounds of Meeker” on the subject of wildfire sounds, but that is our current reality. There is more to come about Meeker sounds including the noon siren, the St. James Episcopal Church carillon, and many other familiar sounds heard daily.

By KAYE SULLIVAN | Special to the Herald Times