The property is down a gravel road, then down a two-track, then you turn onto a dirt driveway, about 600 feet into the woods. We arrived a little after noon, ate around 1 or so.
Chuck has a large metal thingy to have the fire in, with a heavy grate, fire proof gloves. They cooked sausage, meatloaf, hotdogs, and vegetables over the fire. We were comfortable relaxing in our chairs. It was a sunny, cool, and very windy day.
My sister Marie and I had just decided to go for a walk in the woods, when there was a commotion behind us, I turned and there was a circle of fire in the grass! The circle was ~10 feet around right behind the chairs where we had been sitting. I never thought to take a picture of the fire.
After that moment of noticing the fire, things became surreal. I didn't think of the other people (there were three young children and a few teenagers), I wasn't really aware of any one else. I first started to stomp flames out with my tennis shoes, but the wind was strong and there was lots of smoke.
The fire was growing rapidly, almost instantly out of control. I grabbed chairs and moved them toward the picnic tables, then I moved them again. I don't remember thinking much of anything, just unreal. Soon I did think of the cars that were parked about 100 feet from the fire. Luckily I had put the car keys in my pocket, usually I don't carry the keys to "Mike's" car. I felt guilty as I picked up the cooler, one of our chairs, and my backpack and made my way to the car. I didn't talk to anyone, just on autopilot.
On the way to the car I picked up a bucket lid and tried to beat out some flames. At the time I did think, "Oh you could easily burn your hands doing this". Maybe some of the danger was setting in. Along the way I heard my sister-in-law, Betty ask my brother if she should call 911, he said yes call 911. There was no way we could put out this wildfire.
I got to the car and followed Marie out of the area, my niece Cindy was behind me in her car, the woods were full of smoke. I stalled the car several times because I was shaking so hard (and because the clutch is so very far down on the floor of that car!). First we drove south on the two-track and found a place to park but seeing the smoke coming through the trees we decide to relocate to the gravel road. We could hear sirens.
We got to the road and parked, then walked back to the fire, thinking we were going to help. As soon as we got there one of my nephews said firmly that we all had to leave the area and wait at a nearby park. So back to the cars we go.
On the road we realized that my favorite brother-in-law Rick was not with us! My sister, Sugar gave him a call on the cell phone, and his son-in-law went back to get him. That was a scary couple of minutes, I thought how easy it would be to fall down and be lost and overcome with smoke. But Rick got out, he had been battling to save the newly erected outhouse.
We are at the park now, with firefighters and equipment screaming past us. The park has a lake and Marie and I had a nice walk with our great niece (Emily) and great nephew (Alex). We don't get to talk much with these teenage relatives because they live away from us, and you know they are teenagers. Talking with them was the best part of the day! What great kids! Emily even thought right away about protecting the younger kids when the fire broke out!
It took a couple hours to get the fire out, the Dalton Township fire chief stopped to talk to us. He was very nice and said there may still be hot spots, but just call if we needed them again. I wonder when they first got the call about a wildfire in the woods at a party if they thought it was some one "partying"? But there was only pop and water for beverages and no smokers, we are a very tame group.
This is the only picture that we have of the fire.
We went back to the property.
Other casualties of the fire, Chuck's camera (my camera was in my back pocket the entire time, I also had the cell phone in a pocket), a couple of chairs, a soccer ball, a larger cooler was completely gone just a little red spot from the catsup was left. The picnic tables were OK but it was burned all around them. And the food was fine and we even ate some as we cleaned up.
We took a tour of the forty acres, nice property mostly for hunting.
We swapped stories and went home. Oh and the trees we were going to plant were not burned and Chuck planted them the next day.
Thank you Dalton Township Firefighters.