Hermit’s Peak Fire & Dragon Drones

Hermit’s Peak Fire

It’s been a crazy week here in Texas, watching a forest fire some 600+ miles away in New Mexico, hoping that the winds will die down and allow the firefighting team to bring in helicopters and a few buckets of water.

The Hermit’s Peak Fire (#HermitsPeakFire) began 11 days ago, when a prescribed burn got out of control and began eating up acres. The photo was taken from Route 105, about a mile from our log cabin in Pendaries Village (in the trees to the far right). So far, only outbuildings and a couple of RVs have burned, but the fire is now at 7300 acres and only about 3 miles from our house. It’s burning in rugged, steep terrain, around 9,000′, with no road access.

Hermit’s Peak Fire April 10

Yesterday, a Chinook helicopter was able to bring in a few buckets of water from nearby Storrie Lake, to dump on the hot spots. They’ve also reported deploying a drone for backfiring operations to create a defensible space between Pendaries and the fire.  This  morning’s IFR (infrared) map suggests that they’re making good progress. Looks like the mandatory evacuation order for our village will be lifted in the next day or two.

Of course, this has been nerve-wracking for all whose homes are in the path of the fire and for the apologetic and very professional Forest Service folks, who are (deservedly) taking a lot of flak for doing a burn in difficult terrain in windy weather. But we need fire–it’s part of a healthy forest’s ecosystem. And for me, it’s been quite a learning experience–watching online, from a distance, as this fire has developed.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a novella trilogy that ended with a wildfire in Texas. I did a lot of research and learned to appreciate the difficulties. But that was before the Forest Service began using drones to manage fire. “Dragon drones,” they’re called. The drones lay self-igniting “dragon eggs” or act like airborne flamethrowers, to create burned-over space that can stop a fire in its tracks. Amazing, don’t you think? It looks like they’ll be successful and everybody will have a home to go to in the next or two.

Otherwise, April has been busy.  Son Michael has been visiting from Juneau, and that’s been lovely. We’ve been doing some much-needed cleanup around Meadow Knoll, and I’ve been working on the Chabot/O’Keeffe biographical novel, which now has a title: Someone Always Nearby. The book will include quite a few excerpts from the women’s published letters (written in the 1940s, published by the University of New Mexico Press), for which I need permission. I did that this week–the most important ones, anyway.  I think of these as anchoring passages. They locate the fiction in the facts of the letters. I’ll be making a few more requests, but this set is important and I’m glad to have it approved.

There’s also a new mystery in the works. The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker is available for pre-sale. It’s scheduled for publication June 7. (If you think that the current political shenanigans are new news, think again.) Be sure to ask your librarian to order it.

It’s spring here in Texas, lovely and green, in spite of our drought. The blackhaw is blooming in the woods outside my window, there are still a few daffodils and white iris, the mesquites are leafing out, and our winter birds have flown north. And, of course, there are bluebonnets.











Reading note. No, I would not want to live in a world without dragons, as I would not want to live in a world without magic, for that is a world without mystery, and that is a world without faith.–R.A. Salvatore

9 comments on “Hermit’s Peak Fire & Dragon Drones

  1. I have my fingers crossed for your village and the whole of the fire area. It is just one more show of climate change, I am afraid.
    Since my sister died unexpectedly I have not been back to Austin but while she lived there I visited her and we visited the Hill Country quite often. Beautiful place.
    I love all your series and your books about interesting women. Eagerly awaiting the Georgia one.

  2. Wow. I am in Cleveland, New Mexico, (from upstate New York), visiting my brother for a couple of months, helping him out after a major surgery. He mentioned the fire, that it was causing hazey skies, but didn’t know much about it. It was nice to hear “the rest of the story” from you, when I opened my computer this morning! I’ve never been here before and look forward to exploring. Did your story idea about the Sangre de Cristo mountains ever go anywhere? Ever since I read that post from you, seems years ago, I was interested in the area. Seems there was talk of a hotel somewhere in the region that was haunted, that I read an article or book which told the story of the hotel. I can’t quite recall the details or where the hotel actually is. Ahhhh, fickle memory. Hope those dragon eggs work!

  3. I am addicted to your books because I share similar values and character development is good. Finished the trilogy a few weeks ago and have requested Red Hot Poker purchase by our library. The Beatrice Potter tales bring comfort and ease stress. I hope you stay well and keep writing.

  4. Makes me think back to late August/Labor Day of 2020 and the Beachie Creek Fire here in OR. It, too, had begun in inaccessible terrain and the thought was that it would come to nothing. In matter of fact, it literally blew into a raging inferno that took well over 400,000 acres, several communities, and five people’s lives. We were under Level 2 Evacuation (get out when you’re told) for five days. Those memories will be forever. Thoughts and prayers, dear Susan, for you and all in harm’s way.

  5. Thank you for the update. Las Vegas, New Mexico was our first home after my husband & I were married 55 years ago. We hiked in the area of Hermit’s Peak many times, and we used to fly kites at Storrie Lake. We’ve moved many times since then, but New Mexico still has a special place in our hearts, and now we have grandchildren moving to Santa Fe to begin their professions after college. Thank you, also, for continuing the stories of the marvelous Darling Dahlias. Those women have become friends from afar for me.

  6. I’ve loved all your series: China Bayles, Cottage Tales, The Darling Dahlias and Robin Paige. If I’ve missed a series, I’d love to know about it, so i can read it! Thank you for writing all of these interesting stories. You’ve given me many hours (weeks, months?) of enjoyment.
    I finally took advantage of all my downtime during Covid and finished writing a book. Now I have some idea of how much work goes into writing one. To my surprise, writing the book is beginning to look like the easiest part of the process. And you’ve written dozens! You are amazing.

  7. Do hope the winds let up and the fire is put out soon. Good on you for making headway on Someone Always Nearby. I know so little about all that goes into putting such a book together but am very appreciative all the same. May the beautiful spring of Texas lift your spirits and flourish around you.

  8. Prayers for you and your village. And happy Texas spring to you. Haven’t been able to visit Texas in March since the pandemic so I’m missing your bluebonnets and other spring wildflowers. Hope all will be well and that your home and village will be safe in NM.

  9. I have enjoyed your books so very much! I’m reafing Hemlock now. You mention Sharyn McCone’s The Songcatcher, which I finished before starting Hemlock! Thank you so much! (From East Texas) Happy Easter

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