It’s 6:45 Sunday morning, and my wife and I are awakened by a strong banging on the front door. It’s hard to hear at first, maybe it’s just the dogs thumping around. Nope, definitely a strong banging. And now there’s a guy shouting something. What’s he saying? Can you hear? Is he a crazy? Fire? “There’s a fire out here!” That doesn’t make any sense.
Run to front door. Guy in hat looking exasperated. “There’s a fire out here, want me to call 911?” Uh, where and yes.
The next 15 minutes are a sequence of flashing images: Smoke wafting around in the air. Melissa and me and guy staring at a line of fire working its way up the hillside and within arm’s reach of our house. Noticing the fire has breached the forest and made its way into the backyard. Smell the smoke. Hear the crackle and sizzle. Me running inside for buckets. Me unable to find where Melissa hid the buckets. Me cussing Melissa. Running outside with bucket of water. Cooper the Beagle following me and standing a few feet away from open, spreading flame. Me successfully dousing part of fire with water. Guy, on phone with 911: “Yeah, there’s some electrical lines overhead.” Me with bucket, staring at electrical lines and bucket. Guy: “They don’t want you to dump any more water on it.” Me: “I’m putting this section out.” Windsprint down the driveway for a better view from street. Flames zigzagging toward house. Ash spread everywhere. Three fire engines, four other supporting vehicles, two dozen firefighters. Two hoses going, Jarrettsville Volunteer firepeople with rakes, scaling hillside. Crisis averted. Deep breath.
I’ve written up hundreds of fire call stories over the last decade, but never one while standing on my front porch. I assumed the fire was sparked by an ember from the chimney, but the Chief thinks it may have been a cigarette discarded on the side of the road. There is a clear trail of ash starting on the side of the road and working its way into my backyard. The fire was probably burning for several hours. It stopped where the leaves stopped and followed the wood-/leaf-line along the side of the house – except for the backyard, which is still covered with leaves. That’s how it would have gotten to the house.
In the spirit of President’s Day, please remember to rake the leaves away from your house and never toss out a lit cigarette butt – especially into a patch of forest on the outskirts of a state park along a dead end road. And if your subscription to a daily newspaper runs out, but they keep delivering it for free anyway, don’t call and complain – sometimes there can be unexpected side benefits to having a delivery man pull into your driveway every morning. One day he may just save your ass.
After I put these thoughts down on paper, I crashed back in bed, but it got me thinking about what I would have done if things had been ratcheted up a notch.
What if we woke up and the house was on fire? Would my reaction have been the same?
If I had 30 minutes until the point of no return, what would I have done/taken with me? What if I had 5 minutes? You grab the dogs, of course. If we have time, do we grab the computers/cameras/phones? My guitars? Which guitar (Gibson electric, acoustic, Rick Springfield autograph (yes, true)? Any of my book collection? Any of my newspaper collection? Would my samurai swords survive the blaze? All our artwork/collectibles/homemade taxidermy? My band’s merchandise box? Is it weird that there’s not a single piece of clothing I’d bother to save?
Is it bad that I’m this possesive or strange that I’m not moreso?
This fire was noticed at 6:45 on a Sunday morning.
If it’s burning at 6:45 on a Thursday morning, then it just keeps on burning…