May 19th, 2008

Fire Fire Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

Tell us a story or anecdote that involves fire in some way. It can be a forest fire, a house fire, a campfire, logs in the fireplace, or even a lit match, a tale of comfort or destruction. Whatever comes to mind, if it's interesting and fire plays a role, we want to read about it!

Extra Credit: Is the area where you live subject to dangerous wildfires?


I don't know that I have all that much interesting to say about my experience with fire. I think I'll knock on wood on that count, too. A strand of my hair caught on fire for one second at a beach fire when I was in college, but someone next to me quickly put it out. So that's the whole story there.

The one time I remember firefighters coming to the scene of the fire was circa 1984, and for me, the third grade. A laundry hamper a little too close to the furnace had caught on fire - my mother smelled burning plastic coming from the master bedroom as she watched a performance of King Lear on public television in the living room. It's funny, the details you remember. I think she put out the fire herself, but had my older sister call 911 anyway, and I remember standing out in the front yard with my mom and sister and her parakeet and our dog (I don't know where my dad was, but he wasn't home that night) while the firefighters went in to investigate. I also remember our dog Sesame going back into the house, making me worry, and then watching a fireman carry her back out of the house again.

Years later in the mid-90's, I was home from college and Northern California was experiencing record wind speeds. Never in my life had it been that windy as it was that winter, and it hasn't been that windy since. Anyway, one stormy night, I thought it made for the perfect atmosphere to curl up in bed and read King Lear. That night, one of the big, sturdy pine trees, one that had stood tall and thick in the front yard for longer than I'd been alive, fell through the living room roof. No one was hurt. Our living room just suddenly looked like a forest.

Because of these two incidents, I have often wondered whether it is actually King Lear, and not, in fact, the Scottish play that is cursed. Of course, I realize that if one decides to read anything in record winds, all bets are probably off.

Extra Credit: Yep, "California wildfire" is by no means an unheard-of phrase. I have never been close enough to a wildfire for it to pose any risk to my personal safety, but I have worried about wildfires close enough to almost reach loved ones, most memorably the Oakland Hills firestorm of 1991.