27 January, 2010

Burn, Baby, Burn

Our first wildland fire of this year's dry season.
Racing For the Trees
Yesterday, about 3:30 PM, we were in the house and heard the unmistakable sound of snap, crackle, and pop. No, not the candy-coated cereal, but a hot, fast-moving fire on the bush-covered lot just north of Mae and Craig's lots.

I grabbed my cell-phone and called 9-1-1 to report it. Wildland fires here are treated much differently than they would be up in the Northwest (Oregon/Washington/British Columbia). The 9-1-1 folks were pretty laid back. They took down the location, maybe took down my name, and wanted to know, of course, whether any homes were involved. None were at the current time.

It was obvious that nothing was going to happen as a result of my phone call, so I pushed a little bit, asking them specifically to call the fire department and police. They grudgingly allowed that they might call the "fire house".

After that I went outside with Dianna and we trotted out to the gate to take a look. I immediately was ready to charge the hoses and begin setting a defensive perimeter. But, as we watched, it became obvious that the threat would not be to our place.
Blowing From the East
By now, we were out on the street and were joined by Denis and Vivien, who have the house across the road from us and were under the most immediate threat if the wind shifted.

My phone started to ring and disconnected - not unusual down here. So, I went to my missed call menu and dialed the first number there. It turns out that wasn't who just called, but it was Craig. The same Craig who owns the lots just adjacent to the fire, so I briefed him on what was happending.
Transport Police Arrive
About that time, the Corozal Transport Police arrived and cruised down the road looking things over. And shortly thereafter, Craig also showed up. He had been at the Lumba Yaad purchasing a rosewood board (beautiful too) for his porch, so he had just mounted up and headed over here.
Craig Talking to the Transport Police
A couple of years ago, Craig had a scary experience with his property here. One of his workers lit a fire to burn debris (common practice here) and left for the day. That fire took off and burned, similar to this one. Craig decided there was nothing he could do here and he had workers waiting for the board, so he left.

About this time, Denis and Vivien invited us over to their place to have a few beers and watch the fire from the shady comfort of their palapa. Well, that sounded like a grand thing to do, so we did.

Dianna and I ran back across the road, grabbed a small cooler of beer ourselves, told Cody, our caretaker, where we were going, and headed back across to Denis and Vivien's place.

We all got set up under the palapa, opened some ice-cold Belikins and proceeded to watch the surrounding countryside burn up. The fire was still not crossing Craigs vacant lots so we felt pretty safe doing that, and the wind was holding steady, blowing out of the ENE.

Fire and beer. Isn't that one of those combinations they warn against? Ahh, what do 'they' know anyway?

About 15 minutes later, the Corozal fire brigade showed up with their nice shiny fire truck.
Fire Department Arriving
They turned around just south of our place and then stopped to watch the fire as well.
Shiny, Shiny
We went over to talk to them and told them what we knew of any houses in the area. There was one place to the northwest of the fire and the rest was just bush till it got to the highway and the other little villages along it.

They finally decided they would drive over to Ranchito and cruise the perimeter over there. As they left, we headed back to the palapa. Besides our beer was empty and we needed new ones.

About 5:00 PM, the fire more or less became ho-hum. We all decided we'd pack it in for the day, sure that we'd be hearing crackling most of the night. It'll be interesting to see what the burn area looks like today. I'll take pictures if anything looks interesting.

It turns out, the most exciting thing about the fire was that it disturbed a whole flock of egrets and white herons from the swamp near there. They all left in a huge cloud of white.

Just like when Craig called in his fire a couple years ago, the agencies responded, I'm sure, because the Gringos got excited... and they were right. Even though it burnt vigorously for a while, it pretty much self-contained, and became a non-issue. This time.

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