Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
A High Sierra Creek Fire Rescue Fit for an Opera
gvw_david_taub
By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 4 years ago on
September 8, 2020

Share

Harlan Hays wanted to unwind and disconnect from society for the weekend.

“I looked forward to not having cell phone service,” Hays said.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been kind to his job as a singer with the San Francisco Opera.


Listen to this article:


With friend and fellow opera singer Reid Delahunt, the pair planned a five-day hike on the John Muir Trail.

The men met six years ago at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and have been “best buds ever since.”

The Creek Fire forced a change of plans and an emergency evacuation. The pair returned to Fresno on Tuesday morning in a Chinook helicopter.

Watch: Stranded Hikers Become Family Before Rescue

Seeing Smoke

Hays and Delahunt were two of hundreds airlifted Tuesday by the California Army National Guard. Several families and friends of those rescued gathered at the base in east-central Fresno near the airport to reunite with loved ones.

Rescue choppers pulled out 164 people from the Sierra National Forest through the morning and were working to rescue 17 others, Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a briefing on Tuesday. The governor described pilots wearing night-vision goggles to find a place to land in the darkness of the early morning hours for the initial evacuation.

“We noticed the big cloud of smoke out to the west. We figured, oh, that’s probably pretty close to where our car is, we should probably hike out. So we did. On the way, we met many people saying it’s time to evacuate. This whole area is going to be evacuated. You have precious little time to make it to the boat to get out,” Hays recalled.

Hays and Delahunt were directed to shelter at the Vermilion Valley Resort on the western shore of Lake Edison.

Thank you, Vermilion Valley Resort for everything you’ve done for us,” Delahunt said.

From there, Hays made the most of the experience.

“We made a whole bunch of friends. It was a wonderful bonding experience,” Hays said. “Being deprived of any type of community for the past seven months because of COVID-19 — finally being able to be around people again and make friends — it was wonderful.”

Hays put to use his new ukulele skills, taught to him by his fiance. He also regaled the trapped campers with his opera singing.

Hays said he wasn’t scared but on edge.

“We’re all working together. We all knew that the worst could happen and hoping it didn’t, and it didn’t. We were able to get here from the help of our wonderful fire department, and our fire department and Fresno sheriff’s department,” Hays said.

Reunited with Fiance

Hays’s fiance, Emily Shumway, drove from San Francisco to reunite with her loved one and his friend.

I did not sleep much for the last few days,” she said. She said friends and family helped keep her calm.

While sheltering at the resort, Hays was finally able to contact Emily.

“That was the hardest part, not being able to call,” Hays said.

A Helicopter to the Rescue

Seeing the Chinook land provided great relief for Hays and Delahunt.

“It’s a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to be in a helicopter, flying into the Sierras in an emergency evacuation. Like, that’s so epic. I can tell the story forever now,” Hays said.

Because the smoke obscured the sky, the hikers experienced cold conditions. Even the exhaust from the helicopter provided a relief.

“It just felt amazing. Exhaust kind of smelled nice after all the forest fires,” Hays joked.

Photo of interior of a California National Guard helicopter jammed with people rescued from the Creek Fire at Mammoth Pool on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020
California National Guard shows dozens of evacuees being evacuated to safety on a Cal Guard Chinook Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, after the Creek Fire left them stranded at Mammoth Pool. (California National Guard via AP)

Battling Poor Air

The smoke diminished the air quality.

“It was getting harder to breathe. There was some ash falling from the sky and they made it a little hard to be in the moment,” Delahunt said.

Hays said the air was so dry and smoky it gave him bloody noses.

“The Sierras are no joke. You got to be on your toes,” Hays added. “It’s a dangerous place. That’s why I go.”

DON'T MISS

The Pickle Flavor Frenzy and Its Rise in Food Trends

DON'T MISS

Kate Hudson Had a Lifetime to Make a Record. The Result is ‘Glorious,’ Out in May

DON'T MISS

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

DON'T MISS

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

DON'T MISS

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

DON'T MISS

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

DON'T MISS

Real Estate Experts Talk Fresno’s Economic Future. Are Tough Times Ahead?

DON'T MISS

Unlocking the Secrets to Fresno State’s Superb Baseball Season

DON'T MISS

‘This Is How to Improve Reading Proficiency. We Just Have To Execute It’: FUSD Board President

DON'T MISS

Does Dyer Support (or Endorse) Bredefeld for Supervisor?

UP NEXT

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

UP NEXT

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

UP NEXT

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

UP NEXT

‘This Is How to Improve Reading Proficiency. We Just Have To Execute It’: FUSD Board President

UP NEXT

Get a 3D First Look at Merced’s High-Speed Rail Station Design

UP NEXT

California Court to Decide on Transgender Ballot Measure Wording

UP NEXT

Rare House Vote Sees Ukraine, Israel Aid Advance as Democrats Join Republicans

UP NEXT

Full Jury and 6 Alternates Seated in Trump’s Hush Money Trial

UP NEXT

Wired Wednesday: How High Will the Price of Gold & Silver Go?

UP NEXT

Lamborghini’s Race Evolution: From Tractors to the Track

David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

14 hours ago

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

1 day ago

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

1 day ago

Real Estate Experts Talk Fresno’s Economic Future. Are Tough Times Ahead?

1 day ago

Unlocking the Secrets to Fresno State’s Superb Baseball Season

1 day ago

‘This Is How to Improve Reading Proficiency. We Just Have To Execute It’: FUSD Board President

1 day ago

Does Dyer Support (or Endorse) Bredefeld for Supervisor?

1 day ago

Get a 3D First Look at Merced’s High-Speed Rail Station Design

1 day ago

California Court to Decide on Transgender Ballot Measure Wording

1 day ago

Rare House Vote Sees Ukraine, Israel Aid Advance as Democrats Join Republicans

1 day ago

The Pickle Flavor Frenzy and Its Rise in Food Trends

You might have noticed that the tangy taste of pickles has taken over more than just the condiment aisle. From pickle-flavored popcorn to pi...

14 hours ago

14 hours ago

The Pickle Flavor Frenzy and Its Rise in Food Trends

14 hours ago

Kate Hudson Had a Lifetime to Make a Record. The Result is ‘Glorious,’ Out in May

14 hours ago

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

14 hours ago

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

1 day ago

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

1 day ago

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

1 day ago

Real Estate Experts Talk Fresno’s Economic Future. Are Tough Times Ahead?

1 day ago

Unlocking the Secrets to Fresno State’s Superb Baseball Season

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend