In My Front Yard
In the West they call them Brushfires, here they usually call them Grassfires, though lately they call them Wildfires.
There are fires here.
All over the Southwest as a matter of fact, with Texas and Oklahoma having a particularly bad time of it the last couple months.
We're having the worst drought in 50 years. It's hot , it's windy, the air is horribly dry, it's awful. Even when it gets cold , freezing temps in the mornings, it's so so very dry.
In many of the more rural counties in Texas we rely on Volunteer Fire Depts and that makes it all the harder when a season like this happens.
The Texas State Forestry Service has set up a command center in Hood County ( I am sure they are doing this in other areas as well) , it's beside our little municipal airport, behind the school I work at. They fly spotter planes throughout the day, over the surrounding areas west of the D/FW Metroplex. They have planes and helicopters and bulldozers and buses and watertrucks and firetrucks, and hackysacks (we sometimes watch them playing hackysack in the field, while they await a call to action) .
Over the last couple weeks, we've watched them put up tents and fill a huge field with personnel and equipment.
I feel safer knowing they are there, and looking for the fires, prepared to find them and put them out quickly.
Today there was smoke out on the horizon all day , north of us. I told my coworkers that the smoke is deceiving, that the fire could be hundreds of miles away. I was right, the smoke we saw north of us was all the way in Oklahoma. But there were also fires east and west of us, much closer. The command center was all but empty today, they were out working.
There was no hackysack playing in the field today.
I grew up in Southern California, brushfire country.
A place where they have an actual fire Season.
And we always seemed to live in the hills back then.
The smell of brush burning and seeing smoke on the horizon is familier to me ; as familier as tornado warnings are to those in the midwest. In Fire Season my mother used to set an extra pair of shoes near the front door for all of us, in case we ever had to evacuate quickly, we'd have shoes. ( She also kept the family photo albums in the front hall for easy access)
All that stuff up there?
Just background for the story I really want to tell. I want to tell you all a story from my childhood, a story that the Firefighter Camp behind my work reminded of.
Once upon a time, when everyone lived in California, and no one lived anywhere else, I was blessed to live in a place called Granada Hills. ( My future husband lived there too, but I didn't know him at the time).
We lived in a part of GH that was referred to as " North of Rinaldi" , which basically meant that it was in the hills with a bit more open spaces and fields . More brush, in other words, more trees, more in danger from the winds that whipped the flames down the hilly passes.
We lived just off the corner, second house from where the fire department always seemed to set up their command center when there was a big fire in our area.
There were lots of them , every fire season.
This was also back in the day of wood shingle roofs, and houses went up like dry tinder when the winds blew sparks from miles away.
There were lots of eucalyptus trees in our hills, and you may not know that eucalyptus trees tend to explode when they burn, spreading the fire even farther. The winds blow through the passes in the hills, and the big fires create a wind of their own.
They call it a Firestorm.
It's an apt description.
When the fires came , all the neighborhood Daddy's could be seen standing on the roofs with their garden hoses, watering the shingles, protecting their homes as best they could.
Because we were so close to the corner and so near the hills, there were lots of firefighters near our home, and they get tired.
We had a large and lush front lawn , soft green grass carefully tended by my parents , the perfect spot to take a restful sit, or even to sleep on.
My Mom and Dad would always offer our yard to the Firefighters to rest in.
I can remember my folks staying up all night, my Dad watering the roof and my Mom making coffee to bring to the fireman. I remember waking up to the smell of burning brush , ashes literally falling from the sky , with firemen sleeping on our front lawn.
And because they were sleeping on our lawn, and because my Mother brought them lemonade, and water, and endless pots of coffee , we always knew when the wind shifted our way.
We were always told early if an evacuation order was coming. My Mom would call the neighbors and they would prepare their most valuable, most irreplacible belongings to put in their cars.
Many a time I remember being told to take my shoes and my siblings , and go sit in the car.
I don't remember ever actually having to evacuate, but I remember lots of times we prepared to.
I can still see my Daddy standing on the roof, watering the shingles.
That firefighter command center in my county? The one in the field behind my school?
It makes me feel safe.
It makes me feel like the firefighters are sleeping in my front yard.
Everytime I see a spotter plane take off, I know that they are there , watching over North Texas, doing their best to protect us from the flames, protect us from the weather.
I feel like I should be bringing them coffee.