The night before last something woke me around 1am. The wind was howling. I did a check on each of the animals and the bus and was heading back to bed when I noticed a strange glow on the neighbor's porch.
We are parked in an RV park, and right up against the property line are some 3-story tall condos. The strange light was flickering on the balcony of one of the 2nd-story condos. I sat down to watch it for a while. Our 2017 Napa and Brookings wildfire experiences are still very fresh in my mind. In fact, I still find ash here and there in the bus and trailer from one or both of them.
The neighbor's patio fire started out small enough, probably from a short BBQ grill, a candle in a pail or perhaps a cigarette butt in a trash can on his balcony. I hoped that it would fizzle out, it did not. Eventually it melted the can it was living in and I thought "that's the end of it, it should be out of fuel now", but no... it picked up speed and started throwing sparks sideways onto the downwind neighbor's balcony. That's when I woke up Lance.
Let me tell you, nothing will get a man out of bed faster than a firm shake of his leg and the words "honey, wake up, fire". He leapt out of bed like a scalded cat, feet already in motion before he hit the ground.
We went out to look at it together. There was a fence between our property and the condos. We climbed the tree on our side but couldn't get high enough to get a good look at the fuel source. We didn't know which condo belonged to which person and decided against banging on everyone's doors. We were still trying to figure out how to get our RV ladder over the fence and up onto his balcony with our RV fire extinguisher when the wind kicked up again and we saw sparks land on his downwind neighbor's patio furniture. We decided with the strength of the wind it could get beyond us too quickly; I made the 911 call. It was just before 2:00 am.
The dispatcher had a hard time understanding my voice over the wind, and opted to just send a police officer to our location. He told her over the radio on his shoulder "yes, it's a fire" and almost immediately we heard sirens down the highway coming fast in our direction. We moved our car (coincidentally parked in front of that condo) to make room for the firefighters to do their thing. The officer disappeared into the condo building.
Within minutes the big fire truck pulled into the yard - those guys are FAST. They turned off the siren at the entrance but left the lights flashing and parked right in the middle of the RV park. The first firefighter jumped out of the truck wearing a helmet and a full firesuit and got the ladder down. He carried it to the fence and was trying to negotiate his way past it when the police officer and the homeowner opened the sliding glass door and came out. The homeowner said "I got it" and dumped the contents of a tea kettle on it. Just like that: disaster averted. Smoke, fizzle, done. The firefighter looked a little crestfallen not to get to deploy the big ladder, and loaded it back onto the truck, then left the lights flashing in the middle of the park for what seemed like an eternity while discussing it with the reserves that had followed the truck in. I went instantly from worried to relieved to worried again, this time that my RV park neighbors would all hate me in the morning for waking them. Then I think back to the sparks and the crazy wind and I'm sure making the call was the right thing to do.
I'm hoping this means that our run of bad fire karma has come to an end; I would really like this to be the last one I experience for a while. By 3:00 we were back in bed, eyes wide, and by the next morning it all seemed like someone else's story, or a bad dream.