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Big Creek Forest Fire - Warehouse Ruins

The garage was sheathed in metal
but burned and then collapsed upon itself
Thursday August 3rd, 2006 - 10:30 AM

The garage and warehouse was a sturdy structure. The floor was concrete; the walls, doors and roof were steel. Inside 2 by 6 inch and 2 by 8 inch wooden beams, joists and studs held everything in place. Along the back wall stood three pallets. Each was 4 feet by 4 feet. On each pallet was a column of tightly packed cartons that reached 6 feet. Two pallets contained mostly books, notebooks and journals that I used over the last 40 years. The center or third pallet contained little treasures from my life. Pictures of family and friends, gifts received from people I knew and loved and mementos picked up along the way in the journey called my life.

Book Ash
Book pages were visible but
when touched turned to ash
Short Wave Radio
A short wave radio and fish aquarium
emerge from the ash pile
Book Pages
Scorched pages from my college science books

Scorched pages from my college science books littered the still standing but burned wild flowers near the garage. A long row of charcoal laid next to a slumped but intact overhead door. All were signs that the fire was less intense here than at the shop. As always I remained hopeful that something could be salvaged. Unfortunately all of the shop's inventory and many of my personal possessions were incinerated when the bomb shelter burned. I was looking forward to the joy of finding a charred but complete book, journal or notebook in the garage. Anything I could hold, that would connect me to my past, would be a cause for celebration.

Grandis Bicycle Remains
My Grandis bicycle and trainer did not survive
Burned Books
A partially melted and consumed snow plow is half buried by book ash
Book Burning
98 cubic feet of books were reduced to 18 inches of ash

Ipulled on my respirator and carefully pried open the sarcophagus that was a garage and warehouse. Digging through the rubble I quickly discovered my favorite bicycle; a custom made Grandis updated with Campagnolo Record components. Surprisingly only the steel frame seemed to survive. I kicked around for my aluminum frame mountain bike; all I found was the steel handlebar stem and part of the head tube. My Kreitler alloy rollers met a similar fate; only the rails and steel roller axles survived the inferno.

Fire destruction
Burned JP Weigle Framesaver cans and my beloved Grandis bicycle
Book Burning Ashes
Another 98 cubic feet of books, journals and little treasures
My Mom's 1938 Royal Underwood typewriter

Two six foot piles of tightly packed books filled two four foot by four foot pallets in the back of the garage. Both were reduced to eighteen inch piles of white fluffy ash. I could not believe that at least one book did not survive. I remembered as a child we burned our trash in a big steel barrel in the back yard. The newspapers took forever to burn if you did not individually separate the sheets. I reached into the ash pile and combed through it with my bare fingers. To my astonishment not even a scrap from one page of a book survived. I saw the page printing on the ash, just before it crumbled, and turned to dust. Likewise, all that was left of my one hundred or so notebooks, were the spiral wire bindings.

Grandis Italian Frame
Only steel parts remained on my Grandis Italian road bicycle

My favorite road bicycle was a custom built Grandis that I was fitted for in Verona, Italy. We rode for thousands of miles and the Grandis was always comfortable and responsive. Recently I upgraded the components to Campagnolo Record which improved the shifting and perfected the union of rider and machine. Every aluminum alloy and carbon fiber component burned, melted or vaporized from the intense inferno. Only the steel components remained; even the headset was devoured.

Melted Mountain Bike
My Favorite Mountain Bike

All that remained of my aluminum framed mountain bike was the head tube and a few steel parts. The fire in the warehouse was ravenous and cruel; it left nothing but skeletal remains. I could barely believe how little was left.

Every item I owned was attached to a pleasant memory. Notebooks reminded me of college and the pleasure of graduate school. My Grandis bicycle brought forth thoughts of long 100 mile rides in the beautiful New England countryside. My canoe, thoughts of the time I paddled alone down the Connecticut river from Canada to Long Island Sound. My photos; prints of the people I grew up with and shared my life with were burned to a crisp. My books, every single one was reduced to ash. Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero and thousands of other authors all freely gave advice whenever I asked. My college text books were at my fingertips whenever a vexing math or science question arose. They too were gone.
So this is what death must be like I thought while I sat amongst the ruins that once made up my full and happy life. When you die you lose everything that you love; family, friends and all worldly possessions. I still had my family and friends but all my possessions and their links to my past, were gone. I was alive but my home, my business, my past, my history, were destroyed by the fire.

Tim Brockett
Author and owner of Branford Bike,
Tim Brockett in May 2005

Iremain but the Grandis bicycle, Eddy Merckx sweater, home and business were consumed by fire. It is impossible to rebuild my life because there are no tangible materials left to work with. Instead I must build a new life based on the memories and experiences of my old, pre-fire, life. Insurance money will help to build a new house but it cannot replace the pleasant links to my past that I had with my old possessions. Fire is ruthless and cruel. Unlike floods, hurricanes, tornados and most other natural disasters fire often consumes everything in its path. Even when it does not kill people it can maim or destroy lives. Fire fighting is a noble profession because firemen often risk their lives to save other people's property and lives.

How you can help by donating a used book

Donate a book to Tim
Donate a used book or two to Tim

God has a plan for all of us. I am sure that with His help and guidance my future will shine brightly. My life is not over; a new chapter or rather edition, has begun. Branford Bike is gone but maybe not forever. Although the inventory is gone, its most valuable assets, the web site, worldwide customer base, 30 year reputation and the detailed knowledge of its owner still remain. If someone wishes to purchase that we can talk.

Hundreds of Branford Bike customers and web site readers have emailed their sincere and heartfelt condolences. Those emails, and the prayers many have sent as well, are deeply appreciated. Your kind words and thoughts have helped myself and others through this incredibly difficult time. Many friends, family members, riders and web site readers have also asked how they can help.

Of the possessions that can be replaced, books were the most important. The Livingston Montana Congregational church members graciously replaced my most important book, the Bible. If you have a used book or two that you would like to send, please do. The new house will have a library and it it would be wonderful to fill the shelves with books that once belonged to family, friends, riders, customers and Branford Bike web site readers. Each book and any personal notes you inscribe inside, will bring forth memories of the past and provide a much needed link that was destroyed by the fire.

Click on the underlined text to see a list of books I enjoyed from the time I was a small child to the when the fire destroyed my collection.

The books consumed by the fire covered American and world history, European and Russian history and culture, western discovery and exploration including Antarctica and the Arctic, earth science, geology, chemistry, mathematics including geometry, trigonometry and calculus, psychology, philosophy, Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman history and literature, American and Russian literature, Polish history and culture, American politics and culture from 1860 to current, American biographies and autobiographies, tour and photo books of America, Europe, Central and South America, Antarctica, Poland and Russia, classic children's books like Horatio Alger, Mother Goose, Aesop's Fables, Thornton W Burgess, Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Hans Christian Anderson, home and log cabin building, landscaping, greenhouse and outdoor gardening, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and so much more. Anything you can donate will be appreciated.

Please send via US Post Book Rate, UPS or Fedex to:
Branford Bike Book Memorial
C/O Tim Brockett
PO Box 1711
129 Sagittarius Skyway
Emigrant, MT 59027

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