2009 AdventureCORPS Badwater Ultramarathon
PLEASE NOTE: Two nearby campers reported "giant trees just across the creek from our campsite engulfed in flames" to us while we were stationed at the Whitney Portal finish line on Tuesday night at about 930am. Approximately 28 runners had completed the course when I radioed in a 911 call via our race headquarters down the mountain in Lone Pine. Within 45 minutes, an Inyo County Sheriff's deputy arrived with lights flashing and tires squealing. He pulled up with his window down, saying something to the effect of "Get out of here immediately. There's a fire. Do not stop to pick up anything. Get in your cars and LEAVE NOW!" He then raced off to alert others in the area. We scrambled to grab the bare necessities (finish line tape, medals, buckles, cameras, and computers) while rookie entrant Dennis Koors literally sprinted around emergency vehicles and the deluge of departing cars to cross the finish line at 10:13pm. I took his photo (minus the finish line tape as there was nobody to hold it up), then jumped in my van as he jumped into his support vehicle.
We headed down the mountain, discovering a serious forest fire less than 100 yards from the road, not one mile from our finish line. Dozens of giant trees were engulfed in flames from bottom to top. Firefighters and fire trucks were everywhere and a scramble of cars was disgorging down the mountain. I raised our Mile 131 time station on the radio and they told me they were aware of the situation above them, but had been told by the authorities that they could remain at their location. We made the decision to make that location the official finish line from that point onwards. We were all lucky that the wind was blowing down the mountain, not uphill towards our finish line located at the end of a dead end road.
We salute every race finisher and their tremendously positive response to a difficult situation. Thankfully, no lives were lost and the fire was contained during the night. We also salute the US Forest Service, Inyo County Sheriff's Department, and CAL Fire for their fast response and professionalism, and for allowing us to maintain the mile 131 finish line just at the periphery of the fire zone while they did their job.