West Fork fire: ‘We’re taking it hour by hour,’ says couple on pre-evacuation notice

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A few hours after being served a pre-evacuation notice by Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputies Saturday morning, Jana Murchie said she and her husband Michael weren’t panicking just yet, even though their home, about a mile north of Bobtail Lodge Bed and Breakfast, affords a good view of the West Fork fire.

“We’re taking it hour by hour,” she said in a phone interview shortly before 3:30 p.m.

Yesterday was a different story.

“We freaked, because the wind was huge, like a miniature hurricane going through the valley” in the afternoon, Jana Murchie said. “It intensified the fire in a matter of hours.”

Saturday afternoon, she said they’d been told by Forest Service friends that the high amount of smoke in relation to flames “is a good thing” and that the situation “looks pretty good if the winds don’t pickup.”

She also noted, however, that the winds were starting to pick up in the afternoon as they often do in the area.

Shortly after Michael Murchie took the phone from his wife, he had to pause as a plane flew low and loud overhead, dropping fire retardant nearby.

“That plane’s right over me,” he said, barely audible against the engines’ roar.

After the sound quieted, Mike Murchie said the planes had started attacking the fire after it “really broke out” about 3 p.m. Friday.

But for the occasional sight of an exploding tree crown, the couple had seen mostly smoke emanate from the flames on Saturday.

“We can smell it,” Michael Murchie said. “It’s all around us.”

With the fire still several miles away from their home alongside Bobtail Creek, the couple had started assembling photos and other irreplaceable items yet had not yet started loading them into their vehicles.

“I have a truck hooked to a trailer,” Michael Murchie said. “If we start seeing flames real close, we’ll start moving.”

Helping to put the couple at ease were numerous friends and neighbors calling or stopping by to offer words of support and offers of places to stay if they evacuate.

“It’s been non-stop, people trying to help,” Jana Murchie said. “This community is wonderful.”

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