Fire proves challenging for early forest rangers<br>

District Ranger Clyde P. Moose served in what is now the Tusayan Ranger District from 1949-1953.

I received a call from the lookout of a fire down in the piñon country and it was spreading very rapidly. On my way to the fire I stopped at a woodcutter’s camp and got two men to go with me. We started building a fire line but the fire was “crowning” and jumping over us and our clothes were catching on fire and sparks were burning holes in our hats. We decided to go back to the pickup and drive up a ways to where the trees thinned out and maybe we would have a chance. When we got to the truck, a couple of young men were there. The said they saw the smoke and came to help. That made five men and I felt better.

We drove up ahead and found an open place and knew the fire would have to come down out of the trees, so decided to wait for it. A Park Ranger drove up with five Indians This made 11 of us and I knew we could handle it with very little trouble. The fire was coming about ten miles per hour and we did not have long to wait. When it ran out of trees and stopped crowning and started burning in the short grass, we soon whipped it out. It burned about 80 acres.

The Park Service employees were always good to help me on fires. They would send every man they could spare. Our own “Smoke Chaser” and I would have to hurry or they would beat us to them. We, in turn, tried to cooperate and do all we could, but there were only two of us, where they had many more.

Once there was a lightning fire west of the Ranger Station about one mile and I went to it alone. I had been there only a short time when a Park Ranger came with two Chinese boys to help. It was very dry and the fire was getting a good start and I was glad to see them. The lightning storm gained in intensity and traveled in a southerly direction. As soon as we got the fire stopped, I left it with the Park Ranger and went home to the telephone (this was before I was furnished a two-way radio for this District). I knew there would be more fires to take care of.

When I arrived home, Ruby told me there were several more. She had sent the fireman, Les Cravey, to one and Mrs. Cravey had gone on duty at the lookout tower and had reported five or six more down in that part of the country. I drove down where Cravey was, leaving Ruby to do the dispatching, and found he and the logging crew had the first one under control. He and I split up and went to different fires.

In the meantime, Mrs. Cravey reported still more fires. Ruby got the Park Service to handle a couple of them and called the Supervisor’s office in Williams, but they had no one available, so she called Mr. Richardson in Flagstaff, who had a cattle permit in the area. He said he could get some help and called his son at his Indian trading post at the little town of Cameron. The son took some Navajo Indians and went to one of the fires. With Ruby’s good management in dispatching, we got them all controlled without any large ones.

Once I had an “out of season” fire in Coconino Basin and Ruby went with me to it. We had to leave the pickup and walk about a mile and a half to it. It was burning in a dead tree and on the ground underneath. I made the remark that we needed a crosscut saw to cut the tree down before we could put it out. Ruby volunteered to go back to the truck to get it, while I covered the burning embers with dirt. Soon after she left the clouds began to get dark and thick and came rolling down off the Rim. I knew if it rained we would not need the saw and I worked as fast as I could trying to finish the fire before it started to rain.

Ruby should have been back by this time and I knew something had happened. I picked up my tools and started back in a jog and would yell every little while. It was pouring down rain when I got to the truck and she was not there. I yelled again as loud as I could and heard her answer a long way off in the wrong direction. I walked towards her and kept yelling and we finally met.

She had found the truck and picked up the saw and started back to the fire, then realized she was lost, but remembered my telling her, “If you ever get lost, stop where you are and I’ll find you.” That is what she did. When it started raining she got under a tree and waited there until she heard me yell, then she started to meet me and we both got soaked. I told her, “Carrying that saw around on your shoulder in an electrical storm was not a good idea, but I am glad to see you anyway.”

Clyde Moose shared many other stories about his time on the Kaibab National Forest in his memoirs. For more information about Moose, contact the Cline Library or the Kaibab National Forest.

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