The Control Burn that Got Away

Thursday November 7, 2013 Jenner, CA.

Headed to Jenner to kayak today

Just before I got to Jenner today, there was a sign that said controlled burn in progress today. That meant they were trying to burn up a lot of driftwood that collects on the shore just to the north of the river mouth. It collects there during the winter when the river rises and brings all kinds of different types of wood down the river, most of it from the forests that the river goes though on it’s way to the ocean.

They’ve tried to burn it off before, so I knew what they were doing. I’ve heard several stories on why they are trying to burn it off. One, it’s a fire hazard, yes, so is all wood. I think they really don’t like the fact that some people are making statues of it, or the fact that some people are building wooden structures of it, such as lean-tos? And I’m not really certain who they are. The shore is state park property, but it looks like it might be the Sonoma County water agency excavator doing the work.

Let’s get the boat in the water

I forgot about the burning thing and was putting my boat in the water when Ray drove in, in his truck with his kayak.

The River’s mouth is still closed

The gage at the visitor center read 7 ft. 6 inches today, which meant it was coming up about three inches a day. Usually the water company takes out the sand at he mouth after it reaches seven feet, but they are doing things differently these days, so I don’t know what is going on. I do know they post a white paper on the visitors center door a day before they are going to open up the mouth and there was no paper there today.

Let’s go paddling

Ray and I paddled across the river to Penny Island and sat in the channel on the east end for awhile, it was real nice out, with just a light breeze and the sun was out too.

The control burn is out of control

After awhile I asked Ray which way he wanted to go. Up was his answer, so we started to paddle across to the river’s south shore line to go on up it, but as we were crossing the channel a helicopter flew over our heads and went on down to the control burn area.

Looking down that way, there was a lot of smoke, more then there should have been. It appeared the controlled burn was out of control.


This is what it looked like as the helicopter arrived. It scouted around and then left. You can barely see it just under the black wire, near the


I heard from a guy at the launch ramp earlier that they were using an excavator to move the driftwood around to burn it.

Two Cal Fire tanker planes arrived on the scene and just circled around and soon another helicopter came back, which landed for a bit and then flew into the air with a big water bucket attacked, which he filled from the ocean and dumped on the fire.

One of the two air tankers that arrived.fireplane


This fire had potential to get away and cause a lot of damage. There was a light wind blowing that could take it up into the ridge grass very fast and into the forest or even to the town of Jenner as that is the way the wind was blowing.  Not good, but that is why the two tankers cruised around up there, just in case and I think it was a good thing they were up there too. The fire had gotten away from the guys burning and was burning up the hill just below highway one.

This is what the fire looked like just before the tank toting helicopter arrived. It’s just started to burn up the hillside, but is still below the highway.jump


Eventually, we heard a siren and a fire truck arrived and then some more of them.

Here, the first fire truck arrives and the water tank chopper isn’t in action yet.firetruck


In this picture, the water tank carrier chopper dumps his first load of water on the fire. The two fire fighting planes are in the air above the smoke, which you can not see.friredump


I said to Ray, well, if we paddled down that way, they’ll likely have it out before we get there, so we headed down the back channel of Penny Island to get a bit closer to the fire area and stopped at the west end of the island to watch as it provided a good vantage point.

In this picture you can see the excavator that is moving driftwood around to burn.  The fire has been beaten down by the chopper you see dumping water and the guys in the fire trucks are on the highway 1 road above, mostly standing by at this point.firedump


Another photo of the action. Things are a bit smoky so you have to look closely.fire2


In this picture they have it mostly under control. The helicopter left and the big fire retardant dropping planes returned to the airport too. Now the guys in the fire trucks will go down and put out all the little fires. They have a lot of work to do. The guy in the excavator continues to burn as most of this was going on. I thought the reason they were burning this  driftwood was to prevent a situation like this? DAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaa.fireout


With that excitement over Ray and I paddled into Penny Island on the west end, which is flooded by the high water from the mouth being closed. We took a much needed break in there for quite awhile and had lunch too.

This is what the water that is flooding the west end of Penny Island looks like as we paddled into it.island


From there we paddled back out and went up the back channel of Penny Island and up the river to Eagle’s landing.

This little Grebe was in the water just as we enter the back channel.grebe


We paddle up to eagle’s landing at a leisurely pace, then turned around and slowly headed back to the take out for the day.

Like I said before, one just doesn’t know what one will see on the river each day.

Nice day kayaking.

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