Imagine this. Sitting outside on the back patio engrossed in samurai-sudoku and WHAM- CRACKLE, CRACKLE, CRUNCH, BOOM! I look up and see an incredible stream of thick, black smoke billowing from the woods behind my house. Immediately I call 911.
“Is this emergency for fire or police?”
“Fire” I said calmly.
“Name and address”
After I gave the information, I explained that the fire is not on my street, it’s near my house, about 2 homes down from me. “I am not sure if it’s in the development behind the woods or the cabin in the woods.”
“Ok, stay on the line Ma’am.”
The operator asked me to explain everything I know.
So I explained that there is this black smoke billowing above the tree tops and there are crackling noises.
“Can you see fire?”
“Stay on the line, Ma’am.”
“What do you see now?”
“Thick black billowing smoke above the tree tops.”
“Can you see the fire?”
“Just don’t hang up, stay with me” the operator stated.
In the background of 911, I can hear other people asking questions about the location of the fire. I asked my operator if those calls were for my fire.
“Yes Ma’am. We have received about 30 calls. Just don’t hang up.”
I proceed to ask the operator if I should turn on my sprinklers or is this an old wives tale. She stated that the trucks were on their way and at this point it was fine not to turn them on.
“Ok, why are you keeping me on the phone? What do you need me to do?”
“Of all the calls we have received, you are the only one staying calm. I need to keep you on the phone until the trucks arrive. What do you see?”
Honestly, when she said I was the only calm one, I thought thank God she can’t see me. I was pacing like a dog, flipping the dial on the sprinkler system hoping to hear the swoosh of water beating on my yard and house hoping against all hope I would NOT see the fire. As I am freaking out on the sprinkler system by beating the dial, I got this overwhelming “reporter” urge to explain in great detail what I am witnessing. It’s like when your child is sick and you go into adjective overload with the color of snot.
Imagine, microphone in hand… Walter Cronkite on TV asking me to describe the scene.
“I see the thick black billowing smoke pour out of the tops of the spring green trees into a beautiful cylindrical vortex, Walt. I also am noticing black debris falling gracefully from the sky. It is like parking in the back of Disney during the fireworks; the display is over, but the embers continue burning to the ground in a symphonic dance. There is no smell due to the blowing of the wind toward the opposite direction, even though, it is looming above the forest in the back of my big brown house. There is this incredible strange loud monster burping sound echoing throughout the neighborhood that is becoming quieter as the crackling becomes more prominent. Walt, there is a storm brewing northwest of us. The lightening is flashing with the thunder booming behind, about 4 seconds behind.”
“Ma’am, I would suggest you turn on the sprinklers. The trucks have been dispatched, do you see any of them there?”
“I see one police car carousing the main street and I hear the cacophony of sirens blaring in the background.” (Back to you, Walter)
“Ma’am, thanks for your help, I’m hanging up now.”
Click. Seriously, my sprinklers ARE NOT ON!!! I immediately call Mark.
“Mark, there is a fire in our backyard and I need to turn on the sprinklers.”
“Deb, why are you still at the house. Leave and call me back.”
“Oh, I can’t because the fireman may need my calm self to describe what I have witnessed. I think I broke the sprinkler system- it just won’t turn on. There are black things falling from the sky and the 911 lady said to turn on the sprinklers! This is any emergency, Mark, and I need to figure out how to save our home!!”
After a hundred years of him hacking on the internet to figure out why what he is telling me isn’t working, he states, “Where is the word AUTO facing?”
“North, it’s lined up vertically with the sky, Mark, duh.”
“Are you kidding me?! Spin the dial so the word AUTO is horizontal.”
“Ok, it is.”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!? Swoosh, Walt, swoosh, spit, tap tap tap went the sprinklers. On- near the property line of the forest. Thank God Mark has a clear head on his shoulders to save the yard. Walt, what would I do without him?
“Deb, our yard is fine, the house is made out of brick, but the roof is made of straw. The sprinklers will not reach the roof. If it gets out of hand, leave.”
“I can’t, the fire/police may need me to make a statement because I am calm.”