our roadtrip inferno

We saw the fire from the freeway, big, bright, smoke like a cloud factory, flames high enough that we thought it was only a fifteen minute drive away. With that in mind, we took the next turn-off, conveniently close, onto a gravel road to investigate, thinking we might get some pictures of a house on fire or a barn, our theories dying one by one as we continued to drive and the fire didn’t seem to get closer. “That’s too big to be a house.” to “Do farmers still burn fields?”

The first turn we took turned out to be incorrect, a south road, yes, but ending in a driveway and too far west. From that vantage, though, it was possible to gauge the true size of the fire, easily a mile wide and with flames so high they were dwarfing five story trees, making them into toy-like silhouettes that didn’t look real but seemed intricately cut from black paper.

By the time we finally found ourselves at right location, it was too late. The massive, incredible flames had burned themselves out with improbable speed while we were driving, as if a knob that controlled the rate of burn had been suddenly turned to “off”. All that was left was a dark field of sparkling coals even bigger than we figured, dotted with bonfires, poisonous smoke like a scarf of thick brambles along the ground, and a few scorched oil wells, blackened with soot but still moving. It was eerie, a certifiable vision of somebody’s hell, but not a tenth so impressive as the reason-defying wall of fire had been.

Our guess is that we happened to witness some sort of industrial accident, an oil well maybe exploding or some kind of pressure failure. It would make sense, too, to explain how quickly the fire vanished – once the oil burned off, there would be nothing else for the fire to feed on except grass.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *