Disaster Averted

Living surrounded by forest i feared fire more than i feared anything. I refused to have anything in the shed that could be remotely ignitable. Though i had a charcoal grill i kept neither charcoal nor lighter fluid. All my power tools were electric. The mower was powered with elbow grease. There were no candles; only battery powered lanterns. I knew fire and i understood its progression. Fire was not simple. If your property was on fire determination, will, stubbornness, knowledge, or even skill…none of it meant anything. In the hill country fire was considered a tool; not one that i trusted, but then nobody asked me my opinion and i didn’t give it. People had a right to do with their land what they pleased. Farmers would burn fields in order to prepare the soil for the next crop. They would let the fire department know ahead of time and round up a handful of men to stand on the edge of each side of the field with boots and a fire extinguisher. They would stamp the flames out with their boots or put them out with the fire extinguisher if they traveled out of the designated burn area. I didn’t view man as a formidable opponent to fire. I found some ran a more careful operation than others but fire did not play fair and the farmer who thought he’d mastered it was a fool in my opinion. I was more comfortable with brush piles than field burns. They would pick an area void of grass and far away from trees; out in the open. They’d pile up branches and old stumps and then set fire to the whole thing. They’d make a day of it. Someone had to sit out there in a chair with a fire extinguisher and watch it just in case. Some people out in the country burned their trash in a metal barrel. This was also done away from grass and trees. At night i dreamt of fire. I dreamt of people flicking cigarettes out of their car windows while driving. I dreamt of field burns getting out of hand. I dreamt of a brush pile too close to the trees igniting the branches above it, the flames spreading rapidly from branch to branch, dripping glowing embers onto the ground below and igniting the grass there as well. The thought of fire haunted my sleep. It was nearly 1 am. I was watching “only the brave” on youtube on my cell phone. I had begun the movie and was so invested in the thing that i hadn’t put it down even though my eyelids were drooping and i had needed to pee for over an hour. Finally, i couldn’t hold it anymore. Off i went to pee. The bathroom was the only room closed off from the rest of the tiny house. I think it was the transition into a room that was closed off from the rest of the space that alerted my nose to a difference that made me sit up and pay attention. Something was on fire. My thyroid did not function at max capacity as it should and as a result, i had a reduced sense of smell. I knew that by the time i smelled something the scent was likely very strong. I also had a tendency to mix smells up. I thought cigarettes smelled like toast and i thought bread smelled like meat. This smelled like fire to me and the fact that i smelled it meant it had been warning us for a while. There was no time to waste finding what was on fire. I ripped the curtain back and studied the tree boxes. All heat lamps were intact and no boxes were on fire. Just perfect orange squares in the darkness. I checked the stove. All the knobs were turned to “off”. All the burners were cold to the touch. I turned to the space heater. To my horror, Sili had her face a foot away from it. What she didn’t account for was the plastic cone on her head being taller than she was. I grabbed her by the legs and yanked her backwards hard. I dragged her across the floor, away from the heater. The smell was stronger now that i had her close to my face. Burning plastic. I touched her face and neck. Cold. I touched the plastic cone. Searing hot! I resisted the urge to pull it off of her. The fur of her head, neck, and torso was cold to the touch. It was only the plastic that was hot, and she would only make contact with it if i brushed it against her face in trying to remove it over her head. I pinned her to the ground and held her head directly in the middle of the cone, away from the edges. I tried to bend it back into shape as it cooled. She had warped the plastic into a non spherical shape with the heat. I breathed a sigh of relief. The burning thing had been located. The dog was unharmed. The property was not on fire. We would all live to see another day. I moved Sili far from the heater and closed the youtube window. That was enough tv for one night. At 1:45 am i was wide awake. I feared i knew the theme for my dreams that night.

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