Thursday, December 13, 2007

It was a warm afternoon

Elmore Leonard suggests that one never start telling a story with a comment about the weather. I have been warned.

But it was a warm afternoon. According to the weather channel one of the last for some time. Winter is out there lurking in the blues on the weather map. So when the market closed the suggestion was made that we take a walk. And after a bit we were standing looking at a new house. She wanted to get a better look at the siding. I saw something else. Smoke behind the house and off a bit. "I want to see where that some is." WE moved further down the street. I saw flames over in the woods on the other side of the tracks. How lucky- there was a police car parked at a nearby house. We roused the occupant, not the police officer and she called in to 911.

A few minutes later I was headed toward another street where I expected to meet the fire trucks. I heard sirens but I went to see if I could find a path through the woods. I went through a yard and headed toward the tracks. I crossed the tracks and saw the fire. A brush fire. I heard the trucks. Then I saw the lights. Damn they were in the wrong place. I know my local geography. I ran up the tracks and called up to one of the firemen. He descended right at MILEPOST131. Yep. That's right MILEPOST131. I toold him he was in the wrong location. He and I walked down the tracks toward the fire while he radioed in to the truck to go around another way. At the fire I left him and went back up the hill to meet the trucks again.

Talk about getting exercise.

About five minutes later I heard the sirens. They were going back to the railroad crossing, to another highway and down the street I wss standing on. I'd already surveyed. The brush truck arrived first. I guided him in a driveway. He got out and surveyed with me. He agreed. Lots of hose. The engine truck came in and we backed it down the driveway. Loaded to guys with two inch hose and then started pulling three inch. Another truck had "tied the hydrant" and was coming in with four inch line. In the old days when I was a volunteer we had a tanker truck. I guess the engine tanks aren't that big anymore.

So there I was 28 years after last being a volunteer fireman pulling three inch line through the woods and across the tracks. Didn't seem that heavy years ago. They hooked the two inch line and pressurized the line. It's still fun to see water under pressure move a canvas hose.

I was with the command post lieutenant. Calls were coming in about another fire. I told him I'd climb to the top of the hill and see if I saw anything. I told him I suspected it was the same fire. So I climed up to the top of what we called "volcano hill" long before I identified it as an old (1850) ice pit. No other fires. Went back down and made my "report." Later command got a radio call about another way to the fire for equipment. I disagreed and took him to a vantage point to show him the creek and large rocks he'd have to haul hose over. Again he agreed with me.

I hauled some more gear down to the line and the fire was knocked down. I bid them a good night since it was getting dark. I'd done my bit. Besides, I remember what it was like to pack wet dirty canvas hose on an engine truck after a fire. I don't need to revisit those memories of my youth. No way.

And today I'm a bit sore. Gee an old guy hustling up and down hills and carrying gear. I used muscles I haven't used in decades.

And the funny scene I missed:

While I was scrambling with firefighters younger than my boys my wife was up on the street. One woman came up to her with a bit more gray and asked after hearing she lives in the neighborhood, "Do you have kids in schools around here?" No, one is in graduate school in Ann Arbor, another one is almost graduated and working in DC and the other one is a junior in college. You?" She had a fourteen year old and a ten year old. To add a bit of salt to this poor woman's wounds my wife added that "my husband is down there helping the firemen he used to be a volunteer about thirty years ago." The other woman seemed a bit surprised. What kind of vitamins are these people taking?

So we had a fire that was near volcano hill. Right near the dam that used to be part of a grist mill in the mid 1800's. Today it's colder and getting ready to rain. No fires today. I hope.