Two weekends ago, my husband and I went "up north" to visit my family and spend time at the lake. That Saturday evening was one of the scariest nights of my life. We were outside grilling burgers & pork chops for dinner, and we heard some very loud, repeated popping noises. Considering we were in the country, and basically in the middle of BFE, we both assumed either someone was playing with some leftover fireworks from the previous weekend or was shooting stuff, or something similar. However, it was really loud. And it smelled funny. And made a lot of cracking sounds. And pretty soon the sky was filled with really black smoke. It wasn't fireworks or a gun - it was a fire. And it was 3 doors down from my grandmother's house.
I immediately noticed a girl on a golf cart with a phone up to her ear so I ran over to her and asked if she was calling 911. She said no, she was on the phone with her mother. While I was confused why she found it more prudent to be talking to mom rather than the 911 dispatcher, I ran into the house and called 911. I was comforted someone had called before me, and the dispatcher informed me that the fire trucks were en route. I was told that it was a garage fire, and was instructed to make sure to stay a safe distace away.
When I got out of the house, a crowd of neighbors began to form, standing basically in the middle of the road, just watching the fire burn and marvelling at how high the flames were, how they could feel the heat from the flames even where they were. Soon more people arrived, in cars, parking on both sides of the road, leaving only a small path to drive through, and joined the crowd. Some of them even brought cameras and were taking pictures.
I have never felt so helpless as I did that night as I stood there, in our driveway, waiting for the firemen, watching the fire engulf not only the garage and takeover the storage shed and a nearby tree.
The firemen arrived about 10 minutes after I called 911. Gawkers from the area continued to gather. I actually watched two cars, and several crowds of people, either not pull over for the trucks, or fail to move out of the way.
Thankfully, the firemen were able to contain the fire in less than 5 minutes, and completely extinguish it within 10. The firemen from the nearest neighboring town even came to help out. I'm sure that every one of these men on both all-volunteer squads would've rather been doing whatever it was that they had been pulled away from. I'm sure their wives or girlfriends or families would've preferred that, too. However, their efficiency, and their obvious concern for not only the aforementioned property, but for the neighboring properties as well, was impressive.
In the end, the garage, shed, and the contents of both, including two vehicles, were completely lost, but the house and the neighboring properties remained virtually unharmed. Sure, the front of the deck was charred, and the siding had basically melted off. The siding on one side of the neighbor's garage had melted off and had some smoke damage. The front end of the neighbor's truck basically looked like melted plastic. But the homeowners still had a house to go home to. If the wind had been blowing in basically any other direction than the direction it was that night, the damage likely would've been much more significant and widespread.
I have never been so thankful to live only a few blocks from a fire station with a full-time staff.
And to all my readers, please promise me that if you see a fire or an emergency situation in your area, call 911 immediately. Please do not go out to gawk at it. Do not get in your car and drive to an area where you heard there is a fire, just so you can see it; do not use your police scanner to determine your nightly entertainment. Do not stand in the road, do not park your car so as to make it difficult to impossible for a fire truck to drive down, and do not be so oblivious as to not move out of the way for the emergency vehicles. Use common sense, stay away, and let the emergency services do their job. Just be thankful that you're safe, and hope that everyone at the affected property is safe, too.