Thursday, November 13, 2014

FIRE, FIRE, FIRE - This is not a drill!

(I found this post in my draft folder.   I wrote it a few months ago.)
The brown landscape of Kibidula is already several months into the dry season.  It will still be a few more months before we can expect the rains.  What does that mean?  It means that the grass is now so dry, and the winds are often quite strong.  This is perfect time for wildfires.
Kibidula has several firebreaks around campus to help control if there are any unexpected fires.  Even with these, there is a lot of danger during this season.
Several weeks ago, it was time to burn off the areas where tree holes had been dug (or will be dug) to plant several thousands more avocado trees. 
Sometimes we forget to communicate with each other that there is a control burn on campus.  This particular Tuesday Beltina was concerned when she saw a lot of smoke from a very nearby valley.  Doug and a couple of others quickly took off to see what was going on.  Me, I made a phone call to the director to find out if there were any controlled burns going on.  The answer was affirmative.
Sure enough, the field just a short distance from us was being burned to prepare it for planting in the rainy season.  After a few afternoon chores, Joshua wanted to go see it.  We walked up there and talked with some of the staff working the fire.  The wind was taking the smoke directly to our house, so there was no point going home to breath the smoke.  We made the best of it by helping a little here and there and visiting while the fire made it's way across the big area.
At times there would be a lot of excited, loud voices, and we knew that somewhere along the edges some fire must have gotten out of the designated area.  Lots of people would scurry to get it under control.
We had to have a permit to do the burning.  I don't know what all that entails, but we are very close to the forestry area where they grow pines for lumber.  I learned that it was only good through Thursday so we had to get the burning done.
I don't remember what time it was, but soon the leader of the fire brigade came very excited and said there was a fire on another area of Kibidula.  Joshua heard "end of the runway."  Our fire wasn't far from the runway, so I thought perhaps some embers had gotten over there.  Well, to come to find out, it was on the opposite end, a long way from where we were.  It had started right by a walking path also.  Most people believed it was started by someone.
Many acres got burned.  It took bunches and bunches of us and the water truck to get it out.  I didn't get to go right away, because they needed some people to stay and keep the fire close to our house under control, too.  After a long time when the fire by our house was all done around the edges, the rest of the guys said we could go.  Doug was coming back for tools and water and we caught a ride with him.
We had seen the smoke of the wildfire from where we were earlier, and it was quite disturbing.  It was a huge area burning.  By the time we got there, most of the fire was out, except an area in a valley.  It has mostly burned all around it though, and they felt that it was safe to leave it.
We got back home to find out that there was no water!  We were filthy and there was no water to wash hands or body.
Doug went and got some water from the tank by the farm house and we washed up.
We went to bed tired (but clean!)
One hour after getting to bed, the phone rang.  We were so tempted to ignore it.  It was our neighbor saying there was a fire by his house.  It was 10 pm!  I looked out and could see the red glow.
We started calling people and getting dressed.  It was from the first fire of the day.  There were enough smoldering logs that it had jumped into the area beyond the fire break and was creeping its way toward the farm house and our house.  It was in an area of a lot of cut down trees and it was a lot harder to deal with than the grass fires.  We needed water, and we couldn't get the tank-truck where the fire was.
I had just thought that day, "Why do I have so many buckets?"  I had bought some more a few weeks before for food storage.  I had more than I really needed at the time, so I had about 9 empty buckets sitting around.  TODAY - we needed them.  Doug went to the house and got all the empty buckets and we started searching for water.  Some were able to get water from a spring by one end of the fire.  Others were going up and down the burned field getting water from a neighbor's tank, and my group headed down across logs and debris and found a place where we could pull out some very muddy water in the shallow inlet to the pond (I think!)  It was pitch dark, after all and we were using flashlights to walk back and forth over all kinds of down trees and stuff to get the water back to the fire line.
I don't even know how many people were at the fire.  All of us breathed too much smoke.  There were a few injuries, of course.  Not the least of them were when Doug got into some loose sand on the motorcycle trying to speed back to get some tools to fight fire.  He really messed up his arm, hip and ankle.  The elbow are and hip looked the worse.  He was limping for many days.  Actually he was limping the last time I saw him 2 1/2 weeks ago. It will be another two weeks before I see him.  That is another story.
We got back to bed at 1 pm.  Doug went to get at least a little water so we could wash up a little.
 The next morning, Doug headed to the bathroom to try to get washed up from all the fires of the previous day.  Just before he got in the bath, I got the call.
Doug has just been talking to Fletcher about the warning call "FIRE, FIRE, FIRE - THIS IS NOT A DRILL" from his days of being in the planes in the US Navy.
Well, after just hearing him say that that morning or the day before - I didn't resist.  I popped my head in the bathroom and gave a calm but stern "FIRE, FIRE, FIRE - THIS IS NOT A DRILL!"
He didn't smile.
The wildfire at the end of the runway sprang up again (or was set again.)
Lots of phone calls were made and the students from the agriculture and evangelism school along with staff were out and on duty in a hurry.  We had it under control just before lunch.
Then after lunch, they did the controlled burn just across the road from our house.  The fire got so hot that it was too hot to stand even inside our gate!  IT WAS A HUGE FIRE.  There was a lot of brush from when they cleared out the area before the holes got dug.  That fire went well.
Then Thursday there was another controlled burn on the other end of Kibidula that we helped with.
There was so little grass because of the sheep that we had a hard time getting that fire to take and continue.
Jason found a big puff adder though.  Doug disposed of him.  It was a big one and he was taking a liking to Jason it seemed.
Joshua had been lamenting that he hadn't gotten to fight any fires.  I think it was last or the year before, maybe...  there was a call of a fire close to the area where the wildfire broke out by the runway but on the village side.  The water truck had already been out and was going for a refill.  We got the call and a bunch of us headed that way.  By the time we got there, the people had given up on it because it had burned the area that they were concerned about already and they were just going to let it burn itself out.  Joshua was so disappointed.
Then at Mago, the same thing happened.  There was a fire, but by the time Joshua and I got there, all the excitement was over.
He got his share of excitement this time!  I personally think excitement is "over-rated!"

I am so thankful for God's protection and a great team of people we work with.
Thank you everyone for all your prayers.  There is never a dull moment around here.

(We have now been informed that some of the fires were set by a local man that is wanting to graze his cattle on our land.  We now have a full time guard patrolling the area to prevent any more fires this season.  So far, that has ended the "wild fires."  I think Joshua has one good picture of controlled burn that was across the road from our house on his blog.)

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