“ELLEN!” Hugo sounds like there really is something, “ELLEN! THERE’S A FIRE!”
Ah! So I heard it right, there is something. Certainly something! Fire! What??! Where?! Why??
Within seconds, Hugo is at the end of the garden hose, trying to get as far as he can with a pretty wimpy trickle, and I’m running back and forth like an idiot looking for my phone (why is that thing always gone?!), the key to the glass door (why is it still locked?), and calling very loudly for my son, hoping he’ll hear me from this distance.
You do everything you need to do very quickly, but fire is even faster. Terrifyingly fast. Not surprising, because it concerns very dry wood and straw. Great food for a fire.
Broes is also there, and is standing on another garden hose, a little closer, trying to get as much water as possible in and around the fire. I have started throwing buckets full, from the pool, with the help of the neighbors. We are completely unprepared, it turns out, for this unpleasant surprise on Monday afternoon.
I’ve sometimes thought: we should practise with a fire extinguisher, to know by heart how it actually works
It’s not complicated, but at the moment you have to do everything as quickly and efficiently as possible. Now a fire extinguisher is no longer an issue, the fire is already too big – when Maceo comes with one, I push a bucket into her hands: “This is going faster now, are you filling it?”
The three of us, Maceo filling, Jens as an inbetween, and me throwing, plus the boys on the hoses, almost manage to get the fire out. Lucky that it’s near the pool.
How long did that take? Half an hour? The longest half hour of my life…. The police have now arrived, so apparently my hysterical blaring in the phone has had an effect after all. (Later it turned out that Broes had called them immediately. Broes is very good in crises, remains very calm and does exactly the right things without much ado.)
Finally! There is the fire brigade. The fire’s kind of off, but they’re still rolling out the hose
If you’re not careful enough, it’ll flare up again in no time with that wind. The fire brigade has experience with it, don’t they, they make sure that everything is really out. On leaving, the commander of the troops says to me: “Go and check regularly, to make sure it’s out and stays off. With this wind it can easily be blown on again, if something is still smoldering.”
What exactly was it? The fire brigade doesn’t know, I have no idea either. We last used the mower days ago, I put it in the shade on purpose, because you should never leave a petrol engine in the sun. There’s no electricity in the chicken coop, and as far as I know our chickens don’t smoke either.
Well, well, well, hear her tittle-tattling again. Monday afternoon ‘t was quite different….
We are now days further. Days of cleaning up (what a mess!), taking in the damage, and sheltering the chickens as best as possible. They must have somewhere safe to sleep. The rooster and his wife can take care of themselves, but the rest can’t. There is a mother with child, and two adolescent chickens.
Silver lining: it could have been a lot worse. Hugo discovered it when it had just started. The wind has been quite strong in the afternoon the last few days, and it has been quite warm. Then you don’t need much to start a fire. Had it not been discovered immediately, perhaps the big house behind it would have been lit as well.
A 3 storey house with wooden floors. Much more bone-dry wood!
With the clearing of rubble and the start of reconstruction, that realization is at the forefront of my brain. And I’m very grateful that the damage is limited, though is was a horrible fright.
We’ve been lucky.
We moved here in 2000 from Rotterdam, Holland to the Termas-da-Azenha, Portugal.
A big step, especially with two small children.
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