Fire in the Forest

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was COUNTLESS BRANCHES

A forest of living, greening branches can be an inspiring sight, but here’s an account of a raging blaze started in the felled trees on a homesteader’s farm. They were set ablze by the hired man, who had good intentions, but seriously lacked common sense. The REBLOG button on his post isn’t working, so I’ve reprinted this from Flatlander Faith.com. See the original post HERE.

[This is an excerpt from a Canadian Classic, Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie, first published in 1852.  At the climax of the crisis described here, she buries her head in her apron. It was her custom to  pull up her apron to cover her head for privacy when praying.]

The winter and spring of 1834 had passed away. The latter was uncommonly cold and backward; so much so that we had a very heavy fall of snow upon the 14th and 15th of May

A late, cold spring in Canada is generally succeeded by a burning, hot summer; and the summer of ’34 was the hottest I ever remember.  No rain fell upon the earth for many weeks, till nature drooped and withered beneath one bright blaze of sunlight; and the ague and fever in the woods, and the cholera in the large towns and cities, spread death and sickness through the country.

Moodie had made during the winter a large clearing of twenty acres around the house. The progress of the workmen had been watched by me with the keenest interest. Every tree that reached the ground opened a wider gap in the dark wood, giving us a broader ray of light and a clearer glimpse of the blue sky. But when the dark cedar swamp fronting the house fell beneath the strokes of the axe, and we got a first view of the lake my joy was complete: a new and beautiful object was now constantly before me, which gave me the greatest pleasure.

The confusion of an uncleared fallow spread around us on every side. Huge trunks of trees and piles of brush gave a littered and uncomfortable appearance to the locality, and as the weather had been very dry for some weeks, I heard my husband talking with his choppers as to the expediency of firing the fallow. They still urged him to wait a little longer, until he could get a good breeze to carry the fire well through the brush.

Business called him suddenly to Toronto, but he left a strict charge with old Thomas and his sons, who were engaged in the job, by no means to attempt to burn it off till he returned, as he wished to be upon the premises himself in case of any danger. He had previously burnt all the heaps immediately about the doors. While he was absent, old Thomas and his second son fell sick with the ague, and went home to their own township, leaving John, a surly, obstinate young man, in charge of the shanty, where they slept, and kept their tools and provisions.

The day was sultry, and towards noon a strong wind sprang up that roared in the pine tops like the dashing of distant billows, but without in the least degree abating the heat. The children were lying listlessly on the floor for coolness, and the girl and I were finishing sun-bonnets, when Mary suddenly exclaimed, “Bless us, mistress, what a smoke!” I ran immediately to the door, but was not able to distinguish ten yards before me. The swamp immediately below us was on fire, and the heavy wind was driving a dense black cloud of smoke directly towards us.

“What can this mean?” I cried. “Who can have set fire to the fallow?”

John Thomas stood pale and trembling before me. “John, what is the meaning of this fire?”

“Oh, ma’am, I hope you will forgive me; it was I set fire to it, and I would give all I have in the world if I had not done it.”

“What is the danger?”

“Oh, I’m terribly feared that we shall all be burnt up,” said the fellow, beginning to whimper.

“We must get out of it as fast as we can, and leave the house to its fate.”

“We can’t get out,” said the man, in a low, hollow tone, which seemed the concentration of fear; “I would have got out if I could; but just step to the back door, ma’am, and see.”

I had not felt the least alarm up to this minute. Judge then my horror, when, on going to the back door, I saw that the fellow, to make sure of his work, had fired the field in fifty different places. Behind, before, on every side, we were surrounded by a wall of fire, burning ferociously within a hundred yards of us, and cutting off all possibility of retreat.

I closed the door and went back to the parlour. Fear was knocking loudly at my heart – I felt stupefied. The girl sat upon the floor by the children, who had both fallen asleep. She was silently weeping; while the fool who had caused the mischief was crying aloud.

A strange calm succeeded my first alarm; tears and lamentations were useless; a horrible death was impending over us, and yet I could not believe that we were to die.

My eye fell upon the sleeping angels, locked peacefully in each other’s arms, and my tears flowed for the first time. Mary, the servant-girl, looked piteously up in my face. The good, faithful creature had not uttered one word of complaint, but now she faltered forth, “The dear precious lambs! Oh such a death!”

I threw myself down upon the floor beside them, and pressed them alternately to my heart, while inwardly I thanked God that they were asleep, unconscious of danger.

The heat soon became suffocating. We were parched with thirst, and there was not a drop of water in the house. I turned once more to the door, hoping that a passage might have been burnt through to the water. I saw nothing but a dense cloud of fire and smoke – could hear nothing but the crackling and roaring of the flames, which were gaining so fast on us that I felt their scorching breath in my face.

“Ah,” thought I – and it was a most bitter thought – “what will my beloved husband say when he returns and finds that poor Susy and his dear girls have perished in this miserable manner? But God can save us yet.”

The thought had scarcely found a voice in my heart before the wind rose to a hurricane, scattering the flames on all sides into a tempest of burning billows. I buried my head in my apron, for I thought that our time was come, and that all was lost, when a most terrific crash of thunder burst over our heads, and, like the breaking of a water-spout, down came the rushing torrent of rain which had been pent up for so many weeks. In a few minutes the chip-yard was all afloat, and the fire effectually checked. The storm which, unnoticed by us, had been gathering all day, and which was the only one of any note we had that summer, continued to rage all night, and before morning had quite subdued the cruel enemy whose approach we had viewed with such dread.

The imminent danger in which we had been placed struck me more forcibly after it was past than at the time, and both the girl and myself sank to our knees and offered up our hearts in humble thanksgiving to that God who had saved us by an act of His Providence from an awful and sudden death. When all hope from human assistance was lost, His hand was mercifully stretched forth, making His strength more perfectly manifested in our weakness.

“He is their stay when earthly hope is lost,
The light and anchor of the tempest-toss’d.”

Fire in the Wind

Hello everyone,

I read an interesting tidbit the other day from one of these life-coach-advisor types: If you have goals in life you really want to accomplish, or if you feel like your time management ability leaves something to be desired, leave the internet alone for the first three hours of each day. This includes cell phone calls and messages.

He claims most people who’ve achieved success in life don’t start their days online. They rather spend those first prime hours reading, meditating, focusing on goals and planning their day. Conversely, people who start their day hopping and skipping around the internet, reading e-mails, and leaving short comments or messages, tend to carry on through the day with the same lack of focus and end up not getting much done and feeling very unsatisfied.

I’ve decided to follow his advice and see how it works, as I’ve been very frustrated at my tendency to be distracted, or lack of self-discipline. So I tried it this morning: I left the computer alone and read some devotional thoughts about Easter — then focused on some needed housework.

The upside: I feel like I accomplished something today. 🙂
The downside: Morning is my prime writing time. If I got busy with other things, I don’t get to my computer until the evening. (Mind you, it dosn’t help that I have a jigsaw puzzle on the go right now. 😉 )

Now, on to the Fire Wind:

Today was warm and the wind gusting high at times — and it’s been extremely dry here this spring. I was outside for a few minutes around 5 pm and thought: a bad day for a fire. As I’ve mentioned, over the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to burn our “trash pile” of dead and/or pruned branches. I had a little fire last Thursday, but then the municipal Fire Ban went into effect and we can’t burn ANYTHING now. Small wonder, though: last week Saturday our volunteer firemen were called out to three big fires in this area, and we heard there was a bad one near Saskatoon last Saturday.

I came in from outside and puttered around a few minutes, then opened the west side window, since it was so warm — and I got a strong whiff of smoke. Looked out and saw smoke billowing into the sky;  it seemed to come from the farm across the field about a mile south of us. We decided to drive out and see what was happening — after all, the wind was blowing the smoke in our direction and that does make one nervous!  When we reached the road our farmer-neighbour went by in his tractor and headed across the field toward the fire.

We heard later that our son-in-law, on his way home from work, spotted the flames and called in the alarm, then went back to fight the fire. Volunteer firemen arrived and then the firetrucks, and we saw our neighbour going back and forth across the field next to that farm, plowing a fireguard to keep the fire from spreading this way in the high wind.

It burned for at least an hour and now, several hours later, there are still flashing lights at that farm. The fire was burning in their trees, so I imagine some firemen are watching to see it doesn’t flare up again.

I haven’t posted anything in honor of National Poetry Month for a few days, but thinking of fire makes me think of Aussie poet Frank Prem’s book DEVIL IN THE WIND, about the devastating bush fires he witnessed in 2009. This promises to be a fascinating account in poem form! It’s for sale now on Amazon. Here’s the dazzling cover — and the link (Amazon .com)

Devil In The Wind: Voices from the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires (Poetry Anthology Book 2) by [Prem, Frank]

 

Cleaning Up The Yard

from the earth they came
to earth the trees return
ashes in the wind

Yesterday morning there was no wind and the grass was sparkling with a heavy dew, a perfect morning for a little fire, so I worked for awhile at returning to earth all the dead branches the winter winds dropped around our lawn and all the trimmings we collected last summer and fall.

I enjoy sitting beside a small fire; it feels so cozy. And the idea always intrigues me, as I watch a fire devouring bunches of twigs and logs, how a whole tree can be reduced to such a small pile of ashes. Of course I must write a poem about this. 😉

Last year it was so dry in our area the RM (rural municipality) put on a burning ban all summer. Even at that our menfolks on the volunteer fire department were called out a number of times. This spring it’s been so dry here that we have to be very careful about fires. In fact, if things continue this way, we’ll likely have another all-summer burning ban.  I’ve been raking dead grass and there’s always debris on the lawn in spring, plus we have a pile of dead branches from the broken-off spruce tree. I’m glad for every opportunity to burn this stuff before summer comes and there’s standing crop nearby.

This morning I woke up feeling like I was hit by a truck: arthritis having its say, I guess. Plus I have to cook both meals at the seniors’ home today, so no fire even if we have another perfect morning for one. Some pain pills, toast and a cup of coffee, and I’ll be off to work.

I hope you’re enjoying a lovely day—or evening—and heading into a great weekend.

Fire: A Fierce Foe

Aspiring Author Sammi Cox offers her Weekend Writing Prompt HERE.

I haven’t done one of these before, but Dale’s post got me enthused. The challenge is to write a seventeen-word story using the word IGNITE.

Such a short story is the tip of an iceberg, where you know there’s a whole chunk hidden under what you see on the surface. Here’s my offering, and I hope you get a glimpse of the larger story.

“We think a tossed cigarette ignited the ditch grass.” The despondent farmer watched as his wheat blazed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is a very real threat in dry years here in the western prairies. Our son-in-law is one of the volunteer firemen and has been called out different times to crops and hay fields ablaze. One Sunday morning half a dozen of our younger men left in the middle of the church service to go fight a fire.

Not a reality: You wouldn’t see a farmer standing there watching while his crop burned. The local farmers and volunteer firemen are out with tractors and loaders, working for hours, plowing or scraping fireguards to contain the blaze to one field.

This summer was so dry our municipality put a ban on ALL fires, including all outdoor BBQ pits and such, in case a stray spark would ignite a blaze. One of the main causes of fires in our area, however, are the sparks that fly from passing trains, igniting the long, dry grass along the train tracks.

Smoke Again

again this smoky haze
the incense of
an unwanted cleansing

Forest Fire

A thick blue haze has settled on the fields again today. We’ve shut all the windows, as the smoky air is hard to breathe. I hope you’ll pardon me if I’m boring you with all my versifying about forest fire —I find it hard not to think about it whenever I step outside.

On a positive note, two bright but very timid orioles have been snitching from our hummingbird feeder today.