Thursday, July 21, 2011
Little Fire on the Prairie
It was calm and peaceful. Most of the children, 2/3 to be precise, were gone. Only Devon remained, and he was being unusually good and quiet. Unusually quiet, anyway.
The microwave beeped. Ah, supper! For once, I was going to have a chance to take a leisurely meal before leaving for Vacation Bible School. So....hungry......food, at last. I started across the kitchen, salivating.
A slam rocked the front door as Devon rocketed into the house, shouting at the top of his lungs. "MOM COME QUICK RIGHT NOW BACK YARD FIIIIIIIIIIIIIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
If the first part of his announcement had no effect on me, accustomed as I am to dramatic outbursts on a regular basis, the last word definitely got my attention. As I sprinted out the door I demanded, "What did you DO???????" His plaintive voice trailed after me. "Nothing! Really." He believed that to be true, at the time. I had my doubts from the very beginning. [Run to the fire.]
Sure enough, a small column of smoke tried feebly to ascend, its efforts useless against the relentless lashing of the high wind. I ran up and looked. It wasn't that big, not yet. If I could just get my tools, I could take it out myself. That pesky little word, "if". [Run to the shed.]
Couldn't find the McLeod No Pulaski in sight. Those were my personal tools - MINE - from my firefighter days. I wouldn't have been happy to find out that careless children had run off with them any day of the week. To find out while my back yard burned was less than opportune. To find out while my back yard burned in two, count 'em, TWO places was more like catastrophe.
A hoe! Not a big one, but mind over matter conquers all. [Run to the fire.]
Chop, chop! Stupid dull useless piece of junk. Fine for potatoes. Waste of time for wildland fire. On to Plan B. [Run to only faucet, located in front yard, and turn it on. Tell Devon to call 9-1-1, in case my efforts continued to nose-dive at the current rate.]
You may wonder why I didn't go for the hose first. Naturally there's a good reason. First, our property is a long rectangle, a very common shape here. It's only 80 feet wide, and in excess of 500 feet long. The fire was headed the long way, away from the house, so it was already far from the faucet, and getting farther. Second, my hoses are dismal. I did get one new one, a whopping 75 footer - great for watering the lawn but not even half as long as the distance to the fire, as it turns out. All the rest have holes. [Run to back of house to look for additional hose.]
I picked the best of a bad bunch, the fire burning busily all the while. It wouldn't hook up, because the children had fastened a large nozzle onto the short, new hose. With the water turned on, it was too much pressure and I couldn't twist it off. [Run to front of house just in time to meet Devon and command him to turn off faucet. Run to back of house to remove nozzle and hook up hose.]
Why does that hose have to be the one somebody ran over, so it's extra hard to turn? Why can't they run over the hole-iest hoses instead? [Fasten nozzle onto end of hose, yell to Devon to turn the water back on, run to fire.]
Run almost to the fire. Even with the extra length, I am still a good 15 feet short. No problemo. I crank open the firehose-style nozzle, taking careful aim.
A tiny trickle shot nearly 6 feet before falling limply to the grass. [Crank nozzle on and off several times, gritting teeth and straining every muscle.]
A bucket! Surely that will be better than noth.....say, that other fire looks awfully close to John John's pickup. Maybe I'd better take a look...AAAAAAAAAAAGGGHH [Run to pickup.]
Shallow flames licked their way around only inches from the front tire. The edge of the fire had already crept part-way along close to the door, so rather than chance burning my ankles, I jumped in the passenger door. Good - he left the keys right there in the ignition. And just as I backed out and drove the truck to safety, the welcome flashing lights of two small attack engines converged on the property.
How nice it was not to have to run, but to walk calmly around while water flowed freely from hoses that reached all the way to the fire. And at last I had the chance to ponder a little more fully what the possible causes might be.
I carefully examined both fire areas for matches, lighters, small piles of wood that might indicate a campfire, or anything remotely suspicious. Nothing.
"Maybe he lit a firecracker," one firefighter suggested, doubtless observing the shreds still remaining from our 4th of July extravaganza.
The local fireworks guy owns several trucks, and every now and again asks Jack to run a load for him. Just before the 4th, Jack traded in one of his loads for the equivalent in mortars, sparklers, and so much more. John John arranged to procure even more, and the two of them planned a grand festival, pooling their explosives.
That afternoon, Damon went to town with Mom, carrying kid fireworks in his overstuffed pockets. During a period of down time, Mom went to the park and read a book while Damon played.
Looking around for somewhere to set off his smoke bomb, Damon thought to himself, "Aha! I'll bet the sound will be really neato it I put it in the trash can. After all, this is the kind that doesn't make sparks."
How wrong he was.
Part II, to be continued in the morning. I am very tired, for some reason.