“It had stood there for hundreds of years, and he thought it would always stand there. Its roots clutched the hill like a fist with fingers sunk into the soil, and he thought that if a giant were to seize it by the top, he would not be able to uproot it, but would swing the hill and the whole of the earth with it, like a ball at the end of a string. He felt safe in the oak tree’s presence; it was a thing that nothing could change or threaten; it was his greatest symbol of strength.”
—Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged (1957)
My eldest daughter saw the Cave Fire (2019) first among us, at the top of the mountain, not long before sundown. We were all outside in the yard and she called it out.
We stood in the yard and watched, that afternoon and into evening, as it swept down the front side of the Santa Ynez Mountains and into San Marcos Foothills Preserve.
I climbed atop the roof to watch as the grassland flared, nervous it might make it to our house.
The fire swept West Mesa on the Preserve and past the old oak.
The tree has certainly been burned before, and bears those scars, and it’s not likely that a great grandparent of an old oak like this would perish from a fast moving, light intensity grass fire.
Nevertheless, firefighters paid it special attention and took time to care for it as if it was somebody’s home or some historic cabin or schoolhouse in the forest.
They did not have to do this, but they chose to protect the tree. A single tree.
They went to work sod busting and turning the soil to create a defensive firebreak that entirely encircled the big tree. The tree sustained only minor leaf scorch due to their efforts.
Firefighters are the ultimate tree huggers and we recognize and praise them for it.
That’s really great that they did that! 🙂