Sunday, May 27, 2012

Camp Gilla... again

Even though covering news is my passion, I do like to stop and take a break every now and then. Saturday had been a long day covering stories about the big forest fire near Timmins and so when evening rolled around, I was ready to sit back and enjoy a nice dinner. I dropped by Pick of the Crop and grabbed a very nice strip loin and then as I was getting it ready, with a Spanish onion, some mushrooms and a green pepper, I opened a bottle of Beaujolais. Woohoo, this was gonna be good. The phone rang.
It was the communications lady from the forest fire command post. The new fire teams are coming in from BC and I’ve got a seat on the chopper for you, she said. Can you be at the helipad in ten minutes?
Yeahhh, I said. So drop everything, grab the cams and head out.

I got to the helicopter without 30 seconds to spare! I had no idea where we were going, except I could meet some of the fire teams and get photos. Good enough for me.

So up we went over the fire zone. There was a crew from Global National with us, and so our little chopper was packed with people and cameras. The TV guys got the best shots, as expected. I had no problem with that since I wanted a good newspaper story. So we were flying for about 30 minutes when the pilot starts asking if anyone knows precisely where Camp Gilla is? What? I was there two weeks ago. So point out the window at Highway 144, there’s Highway 560 and there’s Camp Gilla. I sure didn’t expect to be back, but once we landed there were about 80 fire crew members from BC there. So that was interesting.
On the way home, the TV guys wanted some close ups of the fire. Our pilot was accommodating. We flew at about 200 feet through the smoke and right above the flames. I’ve never seen anything like that before. We were close to trees, but I wasn’t worried because I was in the back seat. If we hit a tree, it would hit the pilot first! Ha ha ha. Anyway, it was a fun evening and when I got back home at about 10:20, I cooked up a very, very nice steak!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Group Hug!

If you're anywhere near Timmins, one of the things you get to see a lot of are claim posts.  These posts were put up by prospectors on what is obviously a good claim ...  because there are so many posts.  To me it kind of looks like a group hug of claim posts!  It's kind of interesting, because anyone can stake a claim, but it is the first one who gets back to the Mining Recorders office who becomes the owner of the claim.  That's all going to change in the next year or so.  The Ontario government, based in that awful far away place called Toronto, has deemed that claims can now be staked on computers! It sounds modern but it is not. This means that whoever has the fastest computer, or biggest bank of computers (meaning the large corporates) now get the edge over the lowly hardworking prospector who spends his days on the land looking for gold, silver and diamonds. It will be a sad day to see prospectors leaving the land.

Monday, May 21, 2012

More forest fires ...

A bit of excitement Sunday. Another major forest fire broke out south of Timmins. This one caused a massive smoke plume in the sky… was like an eclipse. It just blotted out the sun. I had some explaining to do when a Natural Resources helicopter crew wondered what I was doing in an area they said was too close to the fire. I snapped a photo of them checking out my vehicle. I was on a nearby hilltop getting shots of the fire zone.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Busy week in the bush!

Two things to report on this week. One ... the black flies are out! Oh Yeah, the little buggers were everywhere this week as I had a couple of assignments in the bush. Second item - I saw Don and Denise this week, but I sure didn't expect to see them. They were evacuees from Timmins Forest Fire No.7, which broke out Monday. All the people of Westree were ordered to leave their homes Monday night as the fire appeared to be getting too close. As it turned out, the 200 hectare fire began to move away from the Westree and Morin Village areas on Tuesday. So I drove down Tuesday to snap a few photos. I was able to get past the roadblock and into a remote bush area where I could get a few extra photos. But the wind was carrying embers on the fire and before we knew it, there were little fires popping up all around us, and the whole area began to get very smokey ... so we scooted out of there very quickly. We also dropped by the relief camp where the evacuees were staying. It was nice to say hello and to have a quick chat with Denise and Don and some of their neighbours.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Once there was a real hero ...

This week was interesting in that I spent part of Thursday and then Friday covering the annual competition of the Ontario Mine Rescue teams in Timmins. A lot of people don’t know that Ontario’s own mine rescue program began in Timmins after a terrible fire at the Hollinger Mine back in 1928. Thirty-nine miners died. I wrote a history piece on it for this week’s paper and posted in online as well. One of the most interesting parts came from the testimony at the official Royal Commission inquiry into the disaster. During the inquiry, the story came out about a miner named George Zolob who was trapped with several other men below the 600 level. Poisonous smoke was creeping through the tunnels, but Zolob decided he couldn’t sit there and die. He tore his coveralls into strips of cloth to make primitive face masks for himself and the other six men. Zolob then crawled on his hands and knees through the smoke and darkness to find the shaft leading to surface. Once there he was able to get to the cage (elevator) and get himself and the other miners rescued. Incredible! So here’s the good part. I took a phone call this morning and discovered that Zolob’s daughter is alive, living at the Golden Manor senior’s home. She was pleased with the story and I get to meet her and her son, Zolob’s grandson, on Monday. By the way, the story was told before. It was in the New York Times on February 11th, 1928 … front page! (Click on the image for a larger version.)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Yup, did it again. Silly me!

So I had to do some catch up on my laundry last night... close to midnight. Without thinking, I grabbed the hamper and threw it all in the washer. Only when I pulled my jeans out did I notice the black spot... a big yucky black spot where my pen leaked out. Yep, I left a pen in my jeans pocket. Then I remembered I might have left phone in the pocket too. Yup! Of course, it wasn't working at all so I pulled the battery out and put the phone on a table to dry out. Luckily I had a phone from two years ago sitting in my desk. So I changed the SIM cards and everything is fine. The old phone is working perfectly. I just have to get used to all the buttons again! And I will have to buy some new jeans. Threw the other ones out last night.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Silly photo.

Somedays I shoot a silly photograph at a serious situation. There was a small fire at the Mac's corner store Monday night... the sign out front was a bit funny. So I snapped the photo.

Un - photos. Huh?

So I met a news photographer in Vancouver a couple of years ago who showed me his collection of Un-photographs. Un-photographs are those photos that show up on your digital camera card and you have no idea where they came from. I knew exactly what he meant. My cams are sensitive and sometimes will shoot off a frame or two before I get set up for a news photo. I have seen one or two shots of my shoes that were taken as I had the cams hanging from my shoulder. So this week, I was at a fire scene at about 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday when these Un-photos "happened". Maybe I should start a collection eh?