We had an exciting night this week. Esther wrote a detailed account of it on her blog, so with her permission I’ll share that.
The sound ricocheted through my consciousness, jolting me awake. My sleep-numbed brain tried to register what was going on as I fumbled for my glasses and grabbed my headlamp. Switching the light on, I looked briefly at my watch—12:17 am—and slid out of bed. As I moved, I floundered for an explanation of the noise. I could hear a crackling, snapping, popping sound coming from somewhere.
Could it be an earthquake? No, earthquakes both shake and are noisy. This was just a bang…unless something else happened before I woke up. Did someone have an accident? Possibly.
Soon I reached the door, and after opening it a crack to make sure everything was okay in our front yard, I looked beyond the tree-line around our property. An orange glow lit up the tree down across the road beyond where our street “T’s” onto the road that leads to the village center. I could see a huge column of smoke rising above the deep orange center of the fire, as big around as the trunk one of those enormous old Macrocarpa trees.
What’s going on? Did someone crash into the car sitting at the end of our road that was waiting to be towed away? Are there people hurt?
Then I remembered the conditions outside.
The fire ban is on, and that’s a huge fire. With all the dry weather we’ve had, the grass and hedge will be a tinder box…if that catches fire, it could easily spread over here, and we’d have to evacuate.
Whatever it was that had happened, I wanted to go help out if possible. Just as I was preparing to close my door, I saw a light coming up the back drive—beyond the lawn and the garden, the one leading to the paddock. Someone was heading toward the sleep out that my brother used as a bedroom.
Closing my door against the orange glow, I fumbled for my bathrobe. Then I realized I might be around other people, and it might be best to be fully dressed if I was going to help out. With shaking hands I discarded that and tried to pull on my dress—but it was inside out. After more fumbling—little helped by the adrenaline in my veins and the chilly air causing my hands to shake violently—I was finally dressed and stepped out the door just in time to see Dad coming from the main house.
“Esther? Is that you?”
“I’m going to check it out. Want to come along?”
I slid into the chilly truck seat beside him, and buckled the seatbelt with trembling fingers. Soon, we were out the lane and approaching the burning car. The whole frame was engulfed in flames. Cautiously, we drove past it, looking to see if there was anyone around.
In the light from the brilliant flames, I could see the brown grass in the ditch behind the car. It hadn’t caught…yet. I was thankful there was no wind—the pillar of smoke rose straight up into the air, to join the huge orange-tinted cloud above us.
Under my breath, I prayed that the firemen would arrive soon, and that the grass wouldn’t catch on fire.
We reached the Catholic church’s driveway, and still had seen no one. Just as we were turning around, to go back up the other way, the fire siren blew. Praise the Lord! After going up to the trucking yards, and still seeing no one, we figured the arsonist—whoever it was—had made a clean escape.
Since there was nothing more we could do, we headed back to the house. Mom met us, phone in hand, as we stepped out of the truck, asking if we saw anything.
“Someone apparently set it on fire,” Dad said with strain in his voice.
Mom had called the fire department, and they’d soon be there.
Then Mom remembered seeing a light going toward my brother’s sleep out. I confirmed her memory, because I had seen it too. “Could be someone up to no good.” Dad found his headlamp, and we both walked across the lawn and through the gate.
As we got to the corner of the sleep out, I noticed something weird. “Chevy’s not barking.” The dog that we’ve been taking care of the last few weeks is usually on high alert, and barks at the smallest things. That night, he was unusually silent. The tension in the air heightened, and we hurried even faster to make sure everything was okay.
We got to the front of the sleep out, and finally the dog started barking. One good sign, at least. Then, thankfully, my brother opened the door and came out.
“You’re okay?” Dad asked, “No one’s come here?”
“No,” he reassured Dad. “I just went out to check what had happened.”
By that time, we could hear the fire truck arriving. Knowing my brother was safe, we walked out the drive and soon came upon the scene. It was interesting to watch the firefighters work—although, at 12:30 in the morning it’s not quite the most welcome sight ever.
My brother was relieved. “I prayed someone would call the fire truck,” he said as we watched.
They hosed down the car, and everything seemed out, but within a few seconds the fire started again. After several good lots of drenching, they hosed foam all over the car, and then continued to pour water onto the engine.
Soon, the local police arrived, and after a while he came over to talk to us. By that time, Mom had come out to join us and together we watched the proceedings. When the police came, Mom told him that she had heard 4 or 5 distinct explosions, and we told him we hadn’t seen anyone around the site when we first checked it out.
After a little while, there was nothing more to see. The fire was out, leaving a blackened frame behind, and—praise the Lord!—the hedge was safe, and not much grass had burned. We soon went back to bed.
Neither Dad nor Mom slept much after the stress of the fire. In the morning, all we could see of the damage was a ruined car frame—complete with melted glass on the window frame and a cracked tire rim—and the foam, like snow, all over the car and surrounding area.
We are very thankful there was no wind, that it had rained just a little bit yesterday—just enough to make all the grass wet, and therefore, a tiny bit less fire-prone than usual, and that the firefighters were able to arrive quickly.
It could have been worse—much worse. But God was good, and we didn’t have to deal with any of that.
I went to work this morning—after writing the above—and during the course of our conversation I asked my boss if she had heard anything last night. No; she hadn’t. Sometimes she has a hard time getting a good night’s sleep, but apparently last night wasn’t one of those times.
Being the closest neighbors to our left, I was surprised—they are just down the road from where the fire (and the explosions) were! But they hadn’t heard a thing.
Sometime this morning, my brother met up with the closest neighbor to our right—the only other occupant of our street. He also said he knew nothing about it, and was apparently surprised to hear about the fire.
That made me wonder…what if there hadn’t been any explosions? We probably wouldn’t have heard it—or woken up to it—either! As it is, besides the policeman and the firefighters, we were just about the only ones that were aware of the fire when it happened. I know we would have found out sometime what had happened, but it may have been too late by then—the fire got within a foot or so from the hedge (my brothers reported later that the hedge itself has all turned dark brown/black right around where the fire was), and once that gets going the job of putting it out quadruples in size.
All in all, this experience has made me very thankful. Thankful that we’re safe, and thankful that there was no great harm done (besides a bit of burned grass and a now-ugly car sitting out at the end of our road!).
God is good.