Playing with fire

Our Operations Chief does a size-up as the fire breaches the roof.
Our Operations Chief does a size-up as the fire breaches the roof.
It was a beautiful evening for a fire. The kind when smoke builds and billows, rising straight up before expanding outward like a sound wave. The wind, which usually kicks up and carries the sound and salt of the sea this time of day, was calm. Almost as if it had settled in order to witness the spectacle of Man versus Fire.

My amazing wife, who took all of these photos, brought our oldest son and youngest daughter, who are either potential firefighters or arsonists. I can't tell yet...
My amazing wife, who took all of these photos, brought our oldest son and youngest daughter, who are either potential firefighters or arsonists. I can’t tell yet…

Though it was a “controlled burn” designed to reducing a garage and small home to ashes, it was akin to laser surgery; we were attempting to isolate and remove a cancerous growth while protecting the healthy flesh around it. Without complete precision and control, the fire could easily jump to the buildings flanking either side — one of which was a two-story dive shop filled with SCBA tanks and welding equipment.

Hey, it was a Kodak moment. Except with an iPhone.
Hey, it was a Kodak moment. Except with an iPhone.

My job as the engineer was to operate the pumper and make sure all six water lines remained full and constantly flowing at the proper PSI; a momentary lag in water supply would be all the fire needed to spread, turning a controlled burn into a fully involved nightmare.

Yours truly, ordering a Mighty Kids meal.
Yours truly, ordering a Mighty Kids meal.

Three hours later, there was nothing but smoldering ash and hot conduit where the house had stood. Next to it was the dive shop. The paint didn’t even peel. Afterward, the owner came by and brought us donuts.

Guess he thought we were the police…

Published by

Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

25 thoughts on “Playing with fire”

  1. That is awesome. I can’t even imagine trying to control something like that! Very impressive, and I’m not just talking about the pictures! Your wife took great pics 🙂 what kind of donuts?? It’s almost 10pm here but I might just wonder down to dunkin donuts…. Kinda hungry lol

    1. It was probably the trickiest controlled burn I’ve been on. As the lead engine, all hose lines and water supply cam through me. With all of those hoses, I was kind of like the Octo-mom! And the donuts came from a place called Big Dog Donuts, which is owned by a guy who looks like an ex-biker. He makes everything himself. His place is also home to the best (ever) Reuben sandwich — of which I am something of a connoisseur. A great Reuben and ice cold Dos Eques beer is my heaven on Earth! By the way, if you get a chance to see “Without a Paddle” this weekend, let me know what you think 😉

      1. I Just tried to control my own little fire, the candle was not very cooperative, lol. But seriously, what you do is incredibly brave! Talk about cool under the pressure 🙂 I have never had a Reuben sandwich… I don’t know if we have that here in Miami. We do have a media noche sandwich which is popular here with the Cubans. lol. I saw “Without a Paddle” yesterday… and it was hilarious!! I usually always enjoy Seth Green, and him and the bear made me laugh beyond belief. If that is how Oregon looks like, then I really want to visit. I love nature, and at this moment, I really am craving a get away… Especially with the turn I am taking my life. All meaningless relationships have been broken off, and I am moving ahead, with nothing but me and my dog 🙂 Oh, and my donut run was fruitless, I really wanted one and they only had lemon, yuck. I would have taken a cruller by a guy who looked liked a part time clown at that point, or biker.

        1. Ok, so if you make it to the Oregon coast some time, the Reuben is on me, as long as you like pastrami. In return, the next time I’m in Miami, I’d like to try a media noche 😉 By the way, I think your new direction couldn’t come at a better time in your life. It sounds like you’re definitely ready to take your life — and relationships — to the next level.

  2. Great! Both the narrative and the pictures! Thanks for sharing the burn to learn experience, Ned!

  3. Hmmm, was this just an advert for hunky fireman Ned? If so … it worked!! How gorgeous are you???!!!
    (Sorry, seem to be suffering from a donut overdose … just ignore me).

    1. Lol! Maybe be time to go halves on the maple bar 😉 I don’t write often about it here, but firefighting is a big part of my life. So once in a while, I like to share it here. If you’re interested in some background, here’s a link to an older post about it:

      Could be a good excuse to have the other half of that maple bar 🙂

  4. Hey Ned, great pics from that beautiful wife of yours, but…….hmmm, 1 of your water lines is flat dude. Shall I show this pic to Captain Jagoe?

    1. Haha! If I remember right, that’s what I’m pointing about, asking if they were ready at the nozzle for me to charge it. Or maybe it really was me ordering a Mighty Kids Meal. I can’t remember…

    1. It truly is like a living, breathing thing. I’ve been in rooms and scene the flames at the far end, heard it breathing and growling, changing shape and moving. You can watch doors and windows pull inward then push outward as fire breathes inside. It runs and hides inside walls, in attics and under floors when you chase it with water, as if trying to stay alive.

      1. Elements have power in them and we get so smug as humans thinking we can control them, when we can’t. Fire is the one thing that I fear on a level that is hard to describe. I can feel air currents in hurricanes and not be afraid. I can feel the surge of a tidal bore or under tow and not be afraid…but fire…even a small one…I look at with the most immense sense of suspicion. I know its just waiting for the briefest of moments to take off and become something else, something far more dangerous than it already is. I think that’s why Hell is portrayed as fire and brimstone; because fire is insidious and does not respond in a predictive fashion.
        I could never purposefully choose to do any fire fighting…not could I handle being involved with anyone who was. My fear would them would be paralyzing every single time they put themselves in harms way. Your wife must be an exceptionally strong woman.

        1. I completely undertand that feeling about fire — it’s diferent than any other element in nature. Through training, we learn what four components are needed to create fire, and how the elimination of just one of those components puts fire out. Still, at no time can you ever convince yourself you can control it. I think of what we do as “pursuading” fire to cooperate, remembering it could change its mind at any time.

No one is watching, I swear...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s