By Andrea Arnold Associate Editor/Reporter
On the afternoon of Thursday April 27th, I was driving home from walking my dog when flames caught my eye. It wasn’t totally abnormal as this is the season when people are cleaning up their yards, but as I kept driving, something didn’t sit right.
I turned around, pulled into the yard and ran over to where I had seen the fire. It was under a pine tree, licking at the branches, and the hose laying nearby had melted.
I ran to the house, burst in and yelled, “Your tree is on fire!”
The home owners joined me as we ran to the yard.
In that short time, only an actual minute had passed, and the flames had jumped from the ground fire to branches about 35 feet up. The neighbour had also seen trouble and was making his way over to help.
Between buckets and a newly shortened hose, the fire was contained to the one tree, and the small grass fires around the perimeter that had also sprung up were put out.
The property owner had been out burning brush in his yard. He had the hose on hand and buckets filled with water on standby. Before he went into the house for lunch, he had doused the areas he was burning with water.
However, a strong breeze blew through, tossing hot embers or sparks out from under the wetted top layer.
McBride District Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Dave Hruby says that especially with dead grass and branches around, fire is unpredictable and needs to be treated with extra caution as we come out of the winter months.
In this case, the homeowner was able to, with help, contain and extinguish the fire.
There have been at least two other instances this week of clean up fires getting away. So far, no people have been injured, but some equipment has been damaged as they tried to fight the fire on their own, and the fire department was called after the flames got the upper hand.
Chief Hruby wants to remind people that the crew is there to help.
“We would rather show up to a scene and help with mop up, than for a person to wait until it’s beyond their control to call 911,” he said. “It’s what we are there for. It doesn’t cost anything for us to respond.”
As I stood there trying to help where I could, ash raining down on my head, I was astonished that no one else stopped, and that no one driving past called 911.
If I hadn’t followed my gut and turned around to look closer, that fire would have had several more minutes of freedom before anyone was on site to quench it. As the flames were devouring branches 35 feet in the air, I thought for sure someone would have called it in as they were driving past… but no.
Listening to your little voice, your common sense, or intuition, or whatever you want to call it, could potentially make a huge difference in someone’s day.
In the instance on Thursday, although the individual had prepared with extra water and the hose on hand, and taken preventative measures by wetting down areas, the fire still persisted. With fire it is becoming more clear that you have to expect the unexpected, or what you think would be unlikely because fire is anything but predictable.