Fire & The Comeback Kid | NMBR's Moment of the Year

By 3PM, the once towering pyrocumulus had collapsed. The brown tinted aftermath darkened the sky—extending over 100-square miles. As I took in the vantages of Emory Pass, a lone buzzard circled above in the eerily calm air. To the south, the steep slopes of Percha Canyon were scorched. While thin veins of trees remained miraculously untouched, the fire was unforgiving to most. Spires of smoke rose from rekindled understory as a breeze moved up the mountainside. Our crew boss signaled it was time to go; Incident Command was ordering everyone off the mountain. The fire had turned back our direction and was threatening our escape route. As we descended the winding road, trees swayed violently.

On our way off the mountain, we encountered a lone black bear cub walking the highway near the edge of a smoldering ponderosa grove. My vision narrowed and a lump grew in my throat as we approached the small beast; raising my camera for the capture proved nearly impossible. The ignorant child in me wanted to jump out of the truck and grab the bear. The Forest Service granted me escort me into the fire to photograph—not to play hero, or make decisions, or do anything that could jeopardize the crew. Although photography suddenly felt grossly insignificant I stepped out of the truck and did my job, staying at arm’s reach from the cab in case momma was lurking. We emptied our sack lunch leftovers on the roadside. We cut water bottles open and planted them firmly in the soft ash. The bear treed once it realized our presence. It climbed 20 feet within a few seconds; all while letting out high-pitched growls and groans. The bear wasn't about to jump into the arms of a fully suited fire crew. All we could do was record the bear's location for the wildlife personnel at Incident Command. Despite our dramatic surroundings, gusts and thick smoke, the ride back was silent--we were all heartbroken.

Some will ask: "Why did you not do anything more?" "Did you see momma bear around?" "Was the bear rescued?" -- and so on. I guess the only way to answer those questions is to not--I have no further details or info on the bear--believe me, I followed up. I returned to the site many times after the fire had run its course. All I have to share is a moment will stay with me forever. Much respect to this bear for making it as far as he did that day; he is "The Comeback Kid".

Photo Series: Silver Fire - Spring 2013 | Black Range of the Gila National Forest | Sierra County, NM | All Photos & Text © JakeQuiñones/NMBR Complete Silver Fire Gallery Link HERE

Published on: 
January 3, 2014

Scheduled Overland Adventures, Expeditions & EXP-4WD Training

February 2024: Winter Gila Overland [WGO]: Friday, Febuary 16th through Sunday, Febuary 18th – NMBR's Winter Season Gila National Forest Traversal Read More
April 2024: Spring Expedition & 4WD Training – Friday April 26th to Sunday, April 28th Read More
May 2024: Ghost Divide Expedition to Expo West - Monday, May 13th to Thursday, May 16th. New Mexico and Arizona Backroads Traversal to the Overland Expo West Read More
July 2024: Gila Legends Expedition [GLE]: Friday, July 12th to Monday, July 15th - New Mexico Gila Ultra-Traversal Read More
July 2024: River to the Sky Expedition (RTS) – Friday, July 26th to Monday, July 29th – New Mexico and Colorado Backroads Traversal Read More
August 2024 – Summer Expedition & 4WD Training : Friday, August 9th to Sunday, Aug 11th – New Mexico Gila EXP-4WD Training Traversal Read More
August 2024: Rockies Road Trip to Overland Expo Mountain West: Monday, August 19th to Thursday, August 22nd – Colorado Backroads Traversal to the Overland Expo Mountain West Read More
August 2024 – Summer Gila Overland (SGO): Labor Day Weekend Friday, Aug 30th to Sunday, Sept 1st Read More
September 2024: Fall Camino del Tesoro Overland – Friday, September 27th to Monday, September 30th – Spectacular Fall Scenery Colorado and New Mexico Backroads Traversal Read More
October 2024: Fall Expedition & 4WD Training [EXP-4WD]: Friday, October 25th to Sunday, October 27th – NMBR's rugged, remote, and immersive skill building experience Read More

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