Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Last Weekend of Lake Rossevelt Sailing Season for SV AQUILA...

This was the last leisurely weekend of the boating season for the crew of the sailing vessel Aquila on Lake Rossevelt. Next week we haul our 30 foot, 10,000# vessel from the lake and dry store her at my riverhome. Always exciting trailering over the mountains on the doorstep of winter.
Here is some evening footage of motoring south from Rickey Point Sail Club buoy field to one of our favorite anchorages - Roper Cove. Hop on for a short ride...
Here's some info on the source of the music...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wildland Firefighting - Air Resources...

There are many different elements to wildland firefighting. The size and complexity of a wildland fire depends on fire behavior influenced by fuels, weather & topography combined with the location of the fire and the success of initial attack (or lack thereof). Throughout this blog I’ll offer a glimpse of the broad picture of the topic at hand and in this session it will be some of the air resources used during wildfire suppression.

The decision to use firefighting air resources is based in the assessment of values at risk to the fire, the resistance of the fire to other forms of suppression action, i.e. ground attack by firefighters, engine companies & heavy equipment and the rate of spread of the fire itself.

To simplify the discussion lets break firefighting air resources into two categories; rotors and fixed wings. In ‘normal’ speak that’s helicopters & airplanes. Within each of these two categories there are large variations in the type of resource based on size, performance, cost, and availability.
Lets look first at rotors. Here is a ship bucketing water from Wannacut Lake in the upper Okanogan Valley. I caught this rotor just as it began lifting it’s bucket full of water. Notice the prop-wash on the lake’s surface as the helicopter begins lifting off.

The incident (started by a nearby campfire) is only minutes away for this rotor making it a very efficient firefighting resource. With the assistance of this helicopter, pilot and crew we managed to catch this fire under 20 acres in size, protecting nearby resort and homes in the process.
Rotors are not only used to deliver water via buckets but to reconnoiter fire behavior, shuttle firefighters, and to provide recon flights to incident commanders, command staff, and other officials. The photo above is a shot of a rotor lifting off after delivering me back to ground from a recon flight.

The following photo is an example of a ‘fixed wing’ or firefighting plane. This PBY was incoming on a fire in the highlands near Republic WA when one of my staff caught this shot. Later we argued for years as to which of us had snapped the pic but he claimed the memory of having the wet camera and I gave in. Again the air attack portion of the fire was instrumental to a successful initial attack. The fire was held in check and very little damage occurred. In the PBY photo above we see pure water being dumped from the belly of this lake scooper, though often fixed wing air resources deliver retardant, usually mixed with a biodegradable red 'dye' to assist in the tactical process of using air attack.
As you might guess working around and using firefighting air resources is intense and demanding work. The pilots who operate these ships are top notch at what they do. The following photograph is one I shot on the Fish Lake Fire near the Loomis Forest in Okanogan County WA. It is a true image, no photo shop drama, no tricks, no illusions of distance. This is a retardant bomber diving in tight to deliver a drop onto the fireline. As I said before, these guys are good!

For the next couple of photos we’ll have a birds eye view of the fires from what we call a “bird dog”, it’s the lead plan that sets up the flight pattern for the big retardant carriers to follow. These pics are thanks to our fellow Canadian firefighters out of Penticton B.C. Canada, home of some absolutely great firefighting staff. The first of these two shots is from the Saint Peter’s Creek fire. I was part of a unified incident command trying to stop the spread of this small blaze. If you look closely you can see a number of homes, farms and ranch houses scattered in the drainage. Fortunately with the help of these air attack resources we held the fire to 11 acres in size.
In this next from-the-pilots view photograph we are looking at a portion of the 2,000 acre Nine Mile Fire in northern Okanogan County. This was a tough June fire started from illegal debris burning and torched three homes. As can be seen by looking very closely at the photo (retardant on green roof of home) air & ground resources did everything they could to save the structures threatened by this blaze (a dozen homes inside the fire perimeter survived).
So, this was a broad based view of wildland firefighting air resources. In closing I’ll leave you with this short training video that I received from my friend Ray who runs the Forest Fire Lookout Association store in Spokane http://www.firelookout.org/store.htm I like to think is entitled “Always be prepared”. Hope it keeps you awake…

Here's where you can find some more info if interested.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Of Books & Authors...

An interesting thing occurred as I attempted to address the “profile” portion of this blog. As noted my 1st posting ‘The Introduction’ this blog FIREWATER is a work in progress and admittedly a rough one at that. Thus far, that may be the only thread of truth throughout this experiment.
Anyway back to the “profile”. When something like this asks what my interests are or preferred books are, well I grow somewhat introspective. The clock ticks on and the evening is almost over. In fact that question caused me to wander the many different bookshelves of this part home, part private library (in fact I even photographed a few books during the wandering portion of the evening).
In any case the answer I came up with contained an inter-active element to it, in that I attempted to embed links to some of favorite authors into the answer. The “profile” portion of this format is not user friendly to that process. Learning thus by mistake it occurred to me to list out those same admired authors in a posting itself and add the inter-active links therein. Thus this posting. In the end quiet simple, but all in all part of a work in progress as I learn this media form.
Hope you enjoy whatever you are reading...

Almost anything by the following,

John Maclean,

John Grisham,

James Michener,

Lucia St. Clair Robson,

J.R.R. Tolkien,

Patrick O Brian,

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Curlew Medical Clinic...

This session is really a preview of a blog-to-come. 2008 marked the opening of the Curlew Medical Clinic (new building) and it is beautiful piece of architecture. Besides being a Medical Clinic this edifice houses historical photographs of this unique mountainous river valley and some local artwork. I am one of the fortunate photographers to be featured with a permanent display therein.

The ownership, design, construction and decor are all the result of local folk, artisans and craftsmen.

In the future I hope to work within a collaboration to create a web-site featuring this beautiful construction, discussing it's forward looking design and sharing it's local artwork. Until then these photos will whet your appetite for learning more. Here's to your health... Foster

Want to find the Curlew Medical Clinic - follow the list below:


Friday, October 10, 2008

Nautical Photographic Art...

Before evolving into an amateur / freelance photographer sketching & painting held my creative interest. Not that I was ever good at either but that spark led me to photography and I've yet to venture back.

In this period of digital photography I, like many other photo-buffs have set aside my slide & film cameras. An enjoyable but unexpected aspect of digital imagery is what I've come to refer to as 'rendering' although there is probably other terms for it. This is a process where a digital image is worked in a photo editing program the result appearing more like a digital painting or sketch than photograph. Here are some examples from my nautical collection, click on the images to view a larger version:

The first image here is a watercolour style rendering of my old Lyle Hess designed sailing vessel titled "Sailing Osprey". Her colourful headsail was quiet noticeable while underway. Catherine is at the helm.

In the second image, entitled 'The Navigator" my friend and sometimes sailing mentor Ed Wood looks even more of 'the old salt' than in the non-rendered photo. Here he's at the helm of S/V Woodwind piloting a channel in the northern reaches of the Straits of Georgia, B.C. Canada.

In the third image this water colour effect highlights the waterfront of the Washington State town of La Connor. This image "La Connor" was captured from the bridge as late summers twilight settled in. Mount Baker can be seen n the background.

The fourth picture in this series, "Osprey at Matia dock" is done in a manner to reflect a black & white pen sketch. I find this effect very enjoyable.

The fifth & last picture of this series is called "Sprite" and is an image of the sailing vessel Sprite with owner / sailor / boat builder Larry Silva at the helm during a long run one September afternoon up the Inside Passage.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rainy weekend anchorage...

Here’s to ya’… May warmth & good health be with you in these changing of seasons.
Admittedly my home area oft times does not in autumn linger. Two weeks ago it was 80 degrees in late afternoon. Two weeks from now it might be below zero at night.

As mentioned in “the introduction” to this blog series, I am an active sailor. There will most likely be a chapter or two having a look at Aquila, my 30' sailboat. But we’ll save those details for later and now I’ll take you on a little weekend sailing adventure.
The fair weather sailing of 2008 is falling into memory as autumn’s leaves drop into the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest. For a few more extended weekends we will slip the moorage lines and slide off into the twilight of our Friday evenings, sometimes sailing under bright autumn stars, sometimes into rain and chill temperatures such as this weekend brought. We will stay out until a very early morning commute on Monday imposes on our retreat. Three nights and two full days aboard. In my vernacular it's called “therapy”. These outings usually end up in protected anchorages like Roper Cove pictured here. One of our favorite late season haunts. Gone are the summer boaters, the noisy beach camps. Within these temperate anchorages we listen to the call of geese, the rare loon, gobbling of turkeys. Often we hear the passage of the eagle wings before we see the bird itself.

This weekend was rainy. Made for a hang out, brew some coffee, read a book, play some Scrabble, kind of time. Pretty enjoyable really. I’ve created a small vignette of images and reflections that take you from the sailing, to the rain, to the main cabin in front of a cozy onboard fireplace and lounging boat cat.
Hope you enjoy...

Saturday, October 4, 2008


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Fire is the heat and light energy released during a chemical reaction, in particular a combustion reaction. Depending on the substances alight, and any impurities outside, the color of the flame and the fire's intensity might vary. Fire in its most common form can result in conflagration, and has the potential to cause physical damage through burning.

I started firefighting in 1971 as a firefighter on the USFS Packwood Ranger District in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest as a crewman on a brush disposal (BD) crew. I've since been an engine leader, held a forest warden commission, received training as a fire investigator, become a volunteer firefighter, an ambulance driver, a crew boss, a fire boss, taskforce leader, training specialist, division supervisor, incident commander type 3, elected as a fire commissioner and now serve as a fire chief. (The above photo was a little before my time but these fellas' with their burlap bags and buckets of water were pretty effective for their time).

The archaeological record indicates humans have been using fire for over a million years. It is still a main component in our lives today. Needless to say as a 30+year veteran of firefighting I am fascinated by this element and hope to explore it with you in blogs to come. But for now we've reached the end of this session so I'll bid you all a good day and remember, DON'T PLAY WITH MATCHES...

Autumn in the Kettle River Valley...

Its autumn now. Even the small hints of the summer season are fading. Fire-weather forecast is calling for scattered showers in northeastern Washington. Temperatures are falling to near freezing during the lengthening nights and snow is expected in the mountains. Sailing season is nearly over as the last embers of our northern fire season are extinguished.

Here are a few images of autumn in the Kettle River Valley to enjoy...

This is a photograph I call "Morning Rock". The name comes from the white vertical cliffs in the background. They are approximately 250' tall. A mountaineering friend and I were doing a lot of rock climbing in the '80s and one sunny November morning we went to lead climb the tall vertical crack you can see in the cliff face. Turned out to be more of task than we had bargained for. Our one & only failure at a first ascent. We belayed down sporting a new assortment of bruises, frayed ropes and slightly tarnished egos. But looking back now, many years later, it had been a fine way to spend a late autumn morning and we gained a good story to tell in the process.

"Kettle River Morning" is the title of this photograph. An autumn image captured just off the deck of what I call Riverhome, my log framed house along the Kettle River. As autumn settles in the river valley and temperatures drop accordingly morning mists rise off the liquid surface providing a delightful backdrop to the silhouettes of the large cottonwoods trees lining the waters edge. Its quiet enjoyable to take your cup of morning coffee, sit on the riverdeck and watch the play of morning light.

And what northern portfolio of autumn would be complete without an image of maple leaves. These leaves are special to me in that I planted this tree and three others just like it nearly 20 years ago. The four maples encase a gardenscape area I call "the Maple Room". Of course at this time of year they are exceptionally beautiful and quite photogenic.

Well that's it for this session. Remember to carry your camera with you wherever you go and take lots of photos of the changing colors of autumn.

The Introduction


Foster Fanning here. This is my first blog post, thus it's title -
The Introduction. An intro not only from me to you, the reader, but an introduction for me into the world of blogging.

A little about myself:

LIFESTYLE: Part-time cruising under sail (about 70 days a year). Most-time living in remote, mountainous river valley in NE Washington state.
ACTIVITIES: Sailing (Commodore RPSC), skiing, mountaineering, photography, writing, computers, biking (both types), beach combing.
PROFESSION: Firefighter, Incident Commander, Fire Trainer & Fire Chief.
FAMILY: Two great & grown off-spring; current partner & her very cool daughter; brothers, sister, five grandchildren and a living saint of a mom;
FRIENDS: A large and very diverse group of folks.

I live in the Pacific NW. A land of mountains, rivers and the sea. My home is in a remote mountainous, river valley. Bald eagles are my neighbors. They fish & mate in the 100' pines along the river bank 50 feet from my backdoor. Deer, raccoons, otters, along with the occasional bear & wildcat wander the gardens, visiting at night, leaving scant trace of their presence.

As mentioned above my mate and I sail 70 or so days a year. We squeeze it in between busy careers. Mine as a fire chief, she the administrator of the Stonerose museum & fossil dig site (http://www.stonerosefossil.org/).

Given my strong affiliations with the water through sailing & living on the bank of a river, combined with my 30+ year career with firefighting, I've chosen Firewater as the name of this blog. Blogging as noted is a new venture for me. Of course being a neophyte this is a work in progress, and admittedly a rather rough one at that.

In summary, I've been interested in starting a blog. Not sure where it will go but that may indeed prove to be the true adventure in & of itself.
Thanks for stopping in and having a look. Feel free to post a comment.
Foster Fanning

Other sites I'm working with include the following:

Cruising World profile:

You Tube channel