Chip Dinsmore is sure he would have lost his home had he not ignored evacuation warnings and stayed on his property throughout the duration of the 16,000-acre Tinder Fire.
“There was never a doubt in my mind that I wasn’t leaving,” said Dinsmore, a former hotshot and longtime firefighter.
Though he now does timber work for the Forest Service and has a business clearing trees and vegetation from his neighbors’ lots, Dinsmore had done little of that work on his own property.
Knowing the fire was approaching, Dinsmore, who also has a business hauling water, filled up his two large water tanks with 2,600 gallons of water and hooked them up to pumps. He started watering his grass and moved his vehicles out into the road in case the fire took a turn for the worst and he had to escape.
On Sunday afternoon as his neighbors were evacuating, Dinsmore and his girlfriend, who also used to work as a firefighter, suited up in fire-resistant clothes, hooked up the giant hoses and waited.
They could hear the fire before they could see it. It sounded like a jet engine as tongues of fire made runs up the canyon, burning through fuels before they died out, Dinsmore said. When he ventured out to the edge of the canyon the winds were so strong that they were rocking him on his 4-wheeler.
When the fire crested the canyon it started throwing embers onto his property, then it burned up the camper shell and two sheds on his next-door neighbor's property and climbed into the trees. When it started pushing toward his home, that's when the work started, Dinsmore said.
For about three hours Sunday afternoon he said he and his girlfriend were hustling back and forth across the property, dragging hoses and spraying water on hotspots while making sure embers didn’t fall on their house, garage or sheds.
By 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. it was “pretty much a done deal,” Dinsmore said.
“It looked like the whole neighborhood was on fire,” he said. “All the propane tanks, welding stuff, you name it -- gas cans, tires whatever’s around was just blowing up.”
But his home was safe.
The property to the south was completely burned, as was the house to the east. Dinsmore said that because he stayed, he thinks he saved not only his house but probably the one behind his as well by shielding it from the fire’s path.
On Tuesday, Dinsmore showed where the edge of the fire came up to his property line and burned two sheds in a far corner, but didn’t get any farther.
Emery Cowan can be reached at (928) 556-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.