Using a McLeod tool, a rake-hoe combination commonly used by firefighters, Curt Clarke packed snow on a smoldering spot of wafting smoke.
Clarke isn’t a firefighter, he’s rancher who lives on Cottonwood Coulee Road outside of Cascade County's Stockett.
On Wednesday afternoon, when the high temperature hit 54 and southwest winds blew as high as 18 mph, he was forced to switch hats after a fire erupted in his nearly snow-bare pasture and raced toward his home and horses.
Neighbors raced to help. The wind shifted slightly. Then the cavalry showed up, firefighters from three volunteer departments. If those forces had not converged at the just the right time, Clarke said, he would have been in big trouble.
“The good Lord was looking out for me,” said Clarke, the tempest tamed, standing in his pasture, burned as black as burnt toast and sprinkled with white clumps of snow.
Clarke was fortunate. The fire was stopped at 20 acres.