Stunned by what I saw, I leaped from my bunk, pulled on pants and a coat, laced my boots, and dug a flashlight out of a drawer, all the while glancing at what I perceived to be a forest fire. I slapped my face, splashed cold water into my eyes and down my cheeks, and then walked out onto the catwalk with the binoculars.
Sure enough, through the lenses I could see a patch of flame and a couple of huge trees crowning out with fire. Breathing heavily, I went back inside, made some azimuth-based calculations with my fire-finder, and filled out a fire report. Then I leaned my shoulder against the window, eyes on the fire, and radioed data to the closest fire station, fifteen air miles away. After reporting everything and knowing the fire crews were being awakened and prepared to leave base by helicopter at dawn, I stood back and watched the fire that I estimated to be two to four acres in size.
I watched for twenty-five minutes while retaining radio contact with another lookout upriver that was in the same vicinity as the fire. This lookout could still see no indication of a fire where I had reported it. Shortly, I called the fire station to report that the flames seemed to be receding. Within forty minutes after I spotted the flames, they disappeared altogether. Perplexity set in. What I had assumed was a two- to four-acre fire was now nothing, and I had been the only person in the entire national forest to report it. A two- to four-acre fire does not ordinarily cease to exist after only forty minutes.