Friday, April 10, 2009


Last Saturday I was in bed before 9, reading with husband, friend in guest room, her door closed. Bruce turned out his light but I continued to read for a few minutes. Then I turned out the lights. I closed my eyes and for some reason opened them again in the darkened room. The color orange filled the picture frame on the wall opposite. I thought, "Natasha must be doing something with lights?" But her door was closed. Then fear seared through me and I turned to the window behind. The barn was filled with fire.

"Bruce and Natasha, up. There is a fire," I yelled. I jumped out of bed and headed to the phone in the living room and called 911. She transferred me to the Fire Dept. I rushed outside to find Bruce and Natasha grabbing hoses to wet down the fence, bushes and the edge of our house. We are about 20 yards from the two story barn, a container, a wooden fence and plants between us. The fire was three stories high, reaching out of the skylights that had burst. Explosions filled the air, pop, pop, like gun shots. That's when I insisted we move the cars. Bruce grabbed his beloved bike, I grabbed the metal box with our legal papers, Natasha had her backpack, grabbed my camera and insisted I take more. I looked at her and realized I really didn't care about anything but Bruce's safety and hers. The rest could be replaced over time, but my friends could not. So we drove the cars down to a neighbors. 

It took the fire department 20 minutes for the first truck to arrive. We live in the boonies, and many small town fire departments must respond from long distances, and mostly volunteers fight our fires, so I was later told by a retired fireman, in the country 20 minutes is good timing. If you want faster, move to the city. A water loaded fire truck cannot go faster than 40 mph up a hill, something I never thought of before. Once they arrived they obviously knew what they were doing, making up for lost time, protecting the closest house,  the barn owners and mine, and the above hillsides of grass that would lead to more homes, and contained the fire. Some where in that 20 minutes the roof caved in, the noise terrifying, sparks flying, threatening the houses below. When I next looked at a clock it was 9:42 and seven fire trucks (2 small, 5 bigger) were every where, on the upper road, two or three on the property, and the rest on the road, lining up to bring in more water, then spraying their load, then heading back down to fill up at the hydrant about a block away, returning to line up.

I heard the firemen discuss water, a very big issue for our foothills community. Those of us using water hoses to spray nearby buildings had less pressure because we were all using the water at the same time. They used water to keep the fire in the center of the cement platform the barn was built on, and decided to let it burn out on its own. Someone watched all night, and into the next day to make sure it was truly out.

When night descends fear returns. When the sun appears the fear disappears. I guess that will go away with time. I am so grateful to the folks who appeared to help us all. I've never met some of the people before. I said out loud I need to call my son and a cell phone was put in my hand. I was too shaky to dial so she dialed as I said his number. Who was she? The man appeared and watered down our house. Thank you.

I am not sure, but I think I was the first to see the fire and call 911, close to 9. I had already called when the owners screamed behind a wall of bamboo, "Bruce and Shirley, fire." Bruce said, "Yes, we know and we called 911 already." Had we waited ten more minutes I'd be writing this from my sons house, probably living in a camping trailer, if we were lucky enough to wake up before our house went up totally in flames. The barn didn't take but minutes to fall down, so I suspect our small wooden house would take less. When others told me they called 911, it was busy, so many called at once, I figure around 9:20.

When the barn was built it stole our view of the hillsides filled with oaks, and the stars that filled the night skies. We were so disappointed since it was the stars that pulled us into Three Rivers. That is all back now. I am filled with joy at this view from my window, and sad that such beauty came at such a dangerous price. So many helped to save our community because so much was at risk. As Natasha said,  "It was a good fire drill. The grass is still green. We were lucky."

I do plan to make discs of my favorite photos, and writings and stick them in the metal box. It was foolish to think I wouldn't care down the road for the creative work I have done over the years. My neighbor is a gourd artist. She lost it all in the fire. I put myself in her place and know I must prepare better if there is a next time. Emergencies happen. And its silly to pretend they don't.

Twitter and Art

We are beginning the process to prepare for the Three Rivers Artist's Studio Tour #9, March of 2010. One of the suggestions is to Twitter, logging your artistic process along the way, thought to be another way to market our event. So I am in the learning process of how this blog and twitter connects. Will I have time to do both? I write every morning in a journal, scratching black ink on white paper, the old slow, messy way of putting thoughts to paper, searching to find my own mind on the life that unfolds each day, pen in hand, moving constantly the only rule. I cannot imagine a day without this pleasure. The brain and hand keep moving across the page, pulling out the mundane to find the important below it. When I take the writing to the computer, typing on a keyboard, it is different. It is work. It is editing to make it perfect, something others will see.