Long story, grab your favorite beverage and kick back if you are inclined to read.
Tuesday I had to go visit my spine splicer, about an hour and a half trip each way. Got there and filled out all the first of the year paperwork and such, they even collected a hundred on my deductible, then mentioned that the appointment had to be rescheduled!! The back has been contrary for months and a three hour road trip wasn't a pleasure. While I was expressing displeasure about various things the lady offered me the hundred dollar check back to mollify me. Might have helped a bit but I'm still looking for a doc closer so the one or two wild goose chases a year aren't three hour trips that cost me forty dollars in fuel.
I get home, my back miserable from the drive. I take a few pills and crawl in bed, not much sleep the night before anyway. Wake up to frantic banging on my door and young girls screaming. I looked at the clock, only four o'clock, my groupies rarely show up before seven. Get some jeans on and stagger to the door. Two young ladies are in search of a bucket. Seemed to have something to do with the tractor out by my pond and the roaring fire on the bush hog still hooked to it. I dumped the contents of a five gallon bucket and handed it to them. Then I went inside to get some shoes on so I could help out.
As I opened my door again my neighbor was there, asked if I would call the fire department for him. I told him I had given the girls a bucket, should be adequate to put out the fire. V explained to me that it wasn't that fire he was concerned with. He pointed and that is when I saw the fire in my hay field that hadn't been cut in over a year. Maybe two hundred feet from my house and coming fast driven by strong winds. Luckily the winds had the flames primarily running an angle a few degrees from my house but it was still very much threatened.
My brother has a 32 horse John Deere with a front end loader that is locked in the barn. Makes a fair drag. I grabbed keys to the barn from my bedroom, to the tractor from my truck, and bolted. It isn't at all clear that the house won't be in flames in a matter of a few minutes. Fired the tractor and headed across the rough field catching a lot of air here and there, them things need shock absorbers! I had called 911 and told them to call the fire department, called them back when I saw eight or ten foot flames at the front of this grass fire, most impressive flames I have ever seen from a grass and fairly short weeds fire. "Call Forestry, the fire department isn't gonna get it done!"
I told V there was a hose reel in the barn, grab it while I work with the tractor. No chance of putting the fire out, just trying to hold a line between the fire and a chain link fence around my small back yard. We were stepping and fetching when the first fire truck rolled up but while it was nip and tuck we were holding the fire away from my structures. Maybe twenty acres aflame at this point though. The fire department started calling in reinforcements including Forestry.
Soon other trucks were coming in and at one point we had six or eight trucks and a bulldozer that was cutting fire breaks. At least six different departments, I never met most of them. Literally from all four points of the compass though. My nephew Nate was there, Captain of a city fire department thirteen miles away and his was one of the closer departments. Forestry never made it, busy fighting fires other places although they had a chopper circling later.
The fire made it to the woods on the north, south, and east sides. Fortunately the sun had went down and the wind slowed some, still seems a miracle that the departments got the fire under control after it entered the edge of the woods to the south where it was wind driven and on a front a hundred yards wide or more. Thought we were had when it hit the woods and V's house wasn't far across those woods.
Turned out this had been a day of fire for the entire parish(county) with 20-30mph winds making even tiny fires into monsters. One department made at least fifteen calls that day and some of the trucks left this site after things were under control with sirens wailing and beacons flashing headed to fight another fire.
The rest of the night was mostly spent putting out hot spots and watching for fresh outbreaks of flame. There were large areas of embers high in a tree in the southern woods that I didn't want to fall into tinder while nobody was around to put things out so it looked like I was going to fell a couple eighteen to twenty-four inch trees after midnight on a dark and gloomy night.(It was, I couldn't see a thing!) To make matters more fun one was an obvious trouble tree to fell.
I went and grabbed two saws, wedges, a sledge hammer just in case I could gently tap the tree a time or three and persuade that glowing widowmaker to fall, gear, oil, gas, all the things needed to do some tree whittling. My neighbor was cutting laps also and we met under those trees which he had been watching too. He had a much better light than I had and I could see that the widowmaker was actually a hollow in a still living main branch of the tree. It appeared to be out now although no doubt still burning internally so we decided on a wait and see policy. Neither of us were inclined to do much tree felling in bad footing by the dark of the moon!
Up the next morning, cutting my way to hotspots in the southern woods and putting them out. Saw work but briar blade and shovel too. Hard to get to dirt with all the roots but nice moist dirt was the best thing I had to smother flames. Sawing logs, which unfortunately didn't mean sleeping, dragging them out the woods to well burned areas where they could burn in peace, clearing, and cutting down still burning pieces that were hanging in the air to fall and scatter fire everywhere involved another full day.
Net loss was some grass that needed burning anyway and a huge pecan log that came from a tree snapped off by Katrina. It had seasoned well off the ground and I planned to get some turning blanks from it. Friday night now, seventy-five hours after the fire started and that log and a few other hot spots are still sending plumes of smoke into the air despite rain and ice lightly falling for over twelve hours. All hotspots are well inside areas without other fuel though and winds are mild. The great fire of January 2014 seems to be history.
After twenty of twenty-four hours fighting fire or hotspots my throat is raw, sinuses miserable, lungs not thrilled but no indications of major problems. I ran the little tractor in the fire for several hours, sucked up more smoke and ash than I should have but once I started fighting fire to protect the house I couldn't stop and watch while volunteers were fighting the fire on land I care for.
My hat is off to the guys and gals that do this all the time, full timers and volunteers. There may have been a time I could have done it, I don't think there was ever a time I would have done it for very long!