Fisherman's Best Stories Have Nothing To Do With Bass

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While putting together a story this week about Clifford Pirch's selection as a member of the National Guard's bass tournament fishing team, I couldn't help but remember a sidesplitting story he told me in 2004.

Clifford relayed the tale just days after returning from a bass tournament in Northern California.

In the early days of the tournament, Clifford was trolling a delta waterway when he noticed a small group of workers welding a pipeline on a nearby bank.

A few minutes after first seeing them, he spotted smoke and flames rising from where the men were working.

As the blaze grew in size and intensity, the men labored frantically to put it out.

"They were using their shovels to scoop water and throw it on the fire," Clifford said. "The wind was blowing and I could tell they were stressing."

Although the area was remote, a restaurant was only about 200 yards down a gully, directly in the path of the flames.

After realizing the workers were not going to be able to extinguish the wildfire, Clifford went into firefighting mode, partly because he knows the extensive damage wildfires can cause. As a student at Northern Arizona University, he took up summer work as a U.S. Forest Service firefighter.

As seasoned and hardened as he is, Clifford can't explain what prompted him to do what he did to douse the wildfire.

He expertly maneuvered his bass boat close to where the fire was raging. He then popped the gears in reverse and edged to very near the shore.

After lifting the motor part way out of the water, he angled the Yamaha 225 so it was pointing directly at the wildfire.

His next strategy was to hit the throttle and rev the motor to maximum rpms.

The high-powered engine roared and sent a rooster tail of what Pirch estimates was about 1,000 gallons of water directly into the inferno.

It only took a few seconds of the drenching before the blaze was completely extinguished.

Just to be sure the fire was out, the ever-cautious Clifford revved the high-tech engine a second time and sent in another huge wave of water.

The second burst from the boat motor, about another 1,000 gallons, drenched the entire burn area.

Clifford's quick thinking left the workers who accidentally started the fire staring in comic disbelief.

After realizing the fire was no longer a threat, they doubled over in laughter as if they'd just witnessed a feat that will soon be a part of "Believe it or Not" lore.

In the future, Clifford will have plenty of bass fishing tournament tales to tell his children and grandchildren.

But the best of the stories might be about the day he used an outboard motor to extinguish a wildfire.

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