HELL !On Monday morning, the 24th of September, 2012, we got the word to run for our lives. The great fire that consumed six municipalities in the community of Valencia was sweeping through our neighbourhood, and we got out with about three minutes to spare.
On the Sunday afternoon we noticed a hughe column of smoke rising in the air, so I went to investigate the source. It started about 16 kilometres from us, and the wind was blowing it away from our direction. I was greatly concerned for the people who were in the path, but for ourselves there seemed no need to panic in the moment. However, I realised there is always a possibility that the wind might change, and that, as they say, would be a game changer.
As the afternoon wore on into evening, I would periodically check on the fire from afar, but it appeared to have stablized in the original location, but also a smaller fire was burning off the the East, but again, a long distance from us.
Then came a sense of dread in my bones, and it became more pronounced to the extent that I couldn't sit still. From what I could see of the main fire, it was still far away, but I was propelled into taking action, as an exercise, for a rapid evacuacion. If we didn't need it, I would simply put things back. I decided what to take, and I put those things in the car, including winter wear, and finally, at 2am I went to bed, fully dressed, but I didn't really sleep.
What I didn't know was that the wind in that area had changed direction and the other side of the mountain behind us had been set on fire from flying hot embers and the fire was roaring up the mountain. By three am it had crested and was on its way down the othere side where we live. The ballon went up at 3:15am to get out quickly. We were on our way, with about three minutes to spare, although we could not see any fire. My wife was driving one car with me following her in the other. Suddenly, she stopped! "What are you stopping for?" She said look behind you. I could not believe my eyes, although by then ash and hot embers were raining down on us, and the wind was like a tornado of dust and anything that was loose.
Stopping made perfect sense to take three quick pictures, because for sure we were not going to come back to get the shot.
To make a very long and harrowing story as short as possible, we were barred from our house until Tuesday, although the fire further along the mountain chain was still fully engaged. This fire was so big that it fully consumed six towns and their surrounding suburbs, plus a further three communities were less so as outbreaks from flying hot embers were quickly put down. More than 5,500 hectáres were burnt. ( I have no idea what a hectacre is, but it is a lot of terrain:) It took forty two aircraft to dump water on it, and 29 Brigades, consisting of 800 personnel in total on the ground to be involved to knock it down.
A note of clarification: When I say that six towns were consumed, mostly the fire burnt around those towns without actually going into the town itself.
When we went back to our respective homes, we were not sure what we would find. Upon inspecting my house I found that on all sides, our fruit trees and hedges, our rose bushes and decorative plants had been burnt, but the house itself had not been touched. The other houses in my immediate vicinity had suffered some damage, however slight, but there is not so much as a singe mark anywhere on the walls of our house. However, that is not the end of the story.
I did notice that someone had used my garden water hose to put out the fire in our back garden which was evidently advancing toward a window in my garage. I thought at the time that it was a very lucky thing that a fireman had done that, but the story now takes an interesting twist.
It was not a fireman at all, but rather a young man from the village who was so worried about his father, whom he could not reach by phone, that he walked up the mountain while the fire was still in full leap, and he checked on his father's house that lies next to ours. Having determined that there was no longer immediate danger to their house, he noticed that flames were burning brightly in our back garden. He scaled my six foot wall, plus the two foot wire mesh barrier on top of that, plus the one foot string of barbed wire on top of that to get to the inside of our property. (I certainly hadn't made it easy for him.)
Thereupon, he got himself to the upper level and took the water hose and knocked down the fire. Had he not done so the fire would have made its way into the garage where there are accellerants, such as paint thinners and oil for the cars, and winter clothing and boxes, enough to have made a massive flame to the house. The fire would have also continued to burn the rest of the hedge and the other vegetation around it, and the laundry room/ pallero, and my son's motorcycle parked next to it.
I will present a story in the not too distant future that will introduce the man who should not have been there, but was, and who turned from being a perfectly ordinary guy, into the hero in my life. Stay tuned!
So, is there life after death? The answer, I am convinved is, Yes! Absolutely! I think that when we end our lives on earth, our souls go on to be converted in what we call our Gaurdian Angels. On the night of the 24th of September, all of my wife's family members, and my own who have gone on to the other side were on duty, forming a protective chain around our home, delcaring, "No Fire, you cannot have this one!" Even that young man cannot explain why he went to such measures to save our house, nor where he got the strength from.
It is comforting to me to know that there is life after what we call death, and I even have a job waiting for me. If you wonder where all those souls hang out when they are not doing extraordinary things, just look up at the clouds floating overhead. I think clouds are made up of souls united, and once in a while we make them cry.
We call that rain! Think about it, and should you have a better explanation of why our house could survive a blazing fire that passed along all four sides, but didn't even leave a singe mark, I would be happy to hear it.
Copyright (c) 2012 Eugene Carmichael