The Mendocino Complex Fire and Seevers Ranch
July 27, 2018 the Ranch Fire started in the hills along highway 20 in Mendocino County. I was driving home from Ukiah and actually saw the start of the fire that would consume the forest of my ranch.
When I got home I started the precautionary steps of saving my structures. I had sprinklers on the roofs of the house and power shed. My water tanks were full so I started wetting things down. The days had been so hot it was refreshing to run the sprinklers on the roofs!
The next few days were a flurry of activity. I would work during the day to provide a better defendable space for the house and power shed. I started moving machinery and vehicles into locations where they would be safe. I cut back trees I felt were too close to things I wanted to keep from burning. At the end of the day I would take my binoculars up to Windy Point and try to figure out the way the fire would approach. I was also trying to get an idea of how long it would take for the fire to reach my property.
My ranch was east of the fire. The path of the fire, depending if it burned straight east or more to the north or south, would affect my plans to save my place.
During this time I was getting regular visits from folks working to put out the fire along with forestry and law enforcement. It was amazing to see a patrol vehicle from my old agency, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, arrive on the ranch!
I sat on the road way below Windy point in utter amazement watching the High Glade lookout as it burned. The fire was burning down hill against the wind towards Windy Ridge.
August 2, 2018 the Mendocino Complex Fire breeched Windy Ridge and started into the heart of Seevers Ranch. There is nothing quite like watching the destruction of a forest fire. It is all consuming. I finally understood why firefighters described fire as being alive. It truly is. It feeds, breathes and keeps marching forward.
A quick word on the fire departments and CALFIRE guys and gals that showed up at the ranch… YOU FOLKS ARE AWESOME!
I came back to the house to find a bunch of fire engines and fire personnel. The fire guys were clearing brush and coordinating a fire break up Ladder Ridge. When the dozers arrived they did a loop around the house and started towards Bartlett Springs road.
Since my water tanks were in the path of the fire I started to drain them onto the structures and the area surrounding the barn. My plan was to empty the tanks and then transition to my secondary water supply. So I put approximately 14000 gallons of water onto the area.
I continued to monitor the fire. When the fire was two ridges away the fire departments pulled their equipment to a safer location. There was a mandatory evacuation in place and they told me I should head out. I chose to stay. Foolish? Probably. It was a lonely feeling as they left. But honestly I was happy they did. I would hate to have my stubbornness cause one of them to be injured.
On August 3, 2018, 2130 hours, the fire was completely around my house and structures. The rest of that day is a blur. I made a figure eight around my structures looking for hot spots and putting them out as they flared up. The area cleared around the structures was plenty to keep the flames away. Embers popping out of the forest were my concern. Fortunately the ground was so saturated most embers just sizzled out.
The animals seemed nonplussed about the whole event. I had turned the ponies and goats into the pasture with a nice bale of alfalfa. That was their only concern. The dogs stayed on the porch for the most part. It was comforting to see them feeling safe.
The one exception to the animals was a barn cat named “Skritt”. She followed at my heels the entire night keeping me company. Occasionally she would murder a rat seeking refuge from the fires. It was quite surreal.
I did have a couple close calls when the barn started to catch fire from embers landing in dry horse manure. Fortunately I was able to put those fires out before they did any real damage.
Oh, and the fire guys were constantly checking in with me through the night. It was very reassuring knowing they were keeping tabs on me.
When the sun came up on August 4, 2018, my whole world was changed. I was able to restart my secondary water supply and use the water to run the fire sprinklers again. My biggest fear was I’d missed a hot spot and it was going to smolder into a big fire.
I spent the days after the fire cleaning up the mess. When folks reached out to see if their homes survived I did my best to find out and call them back. Some folks were fortunate and some were not. It really seemed to come down to how they prepared for the fire. The folks that raked up the pine needles, leaves and debris seemed to do fine.
So the future holds a lot of work. I’m starting the clean up of roads and culverts. The spring will be very much looked forward to!
Lloyd Seevers February 3, 2019