Have you ever tried sliding up a slippery pole – it’s not easy, and that’s why you can’t un-call the fire brigade. Once they set off – bells ringing and sirens wailing they are totally committed and it would be churlish to stop them.
Yesterday we had a grass fire – unbelievable after six months of incessant rain, but I’ve always said that Mid-Wales is well drained and we’ve had a chirpy breeze in the last few, sunny days — we’ve even generated a little electricity. We’ve been out and about, trimming back the hedges so they don’t poke you in the eye during lambing, and sweeping up the moss that the ducks have been conscientiously collecting since October – a good time for a bonfire!
One little splutter from the heart of the fire – that’s all it took, perhaps a superheated egg that slipped in with the straw from the chicken coop or an ink cartridge that tumbled from the not too tidy desk into the waste-paper basket with all the bank details that have to be burned. Anyway there was a bang and something small and very hot flew from the fire onto the bank.
The next thing we knew there was a pool of low level flame engulfing my stamping husband.
‘We need water!’ shouted Alison, who has come to stay, for a rest.
We fill up a bucket then realise that the fire is near the stream so run towards it with buckets – we make a human chain – but it only has two links and angina rapidly ensues as we run up and down the steep bank, up which the suddenly stiff wind is wafting the flames with amazing enthusiasm.
Alison’s partner who is stamping and beating the flames with a branch is now disappearing in a pall of choking smoke and the other link in my human chain is chasing her dog who has come to join in.
‘It’s out of control!’ shouts Ali.
Now there’s a moot point here – she could have meant that the dog was out of control. But the situation looked pretty dire to me and the temptation to have a little run on the flat was too much for my bursting chest so I ran to the house to call the Fire Brigade.
‘Emergency – which service do you require?’
‘We’ve got a grass fire, out of control!’ I pant.
Do you require the police, ambulance or fire service?
‘Why would I want the police or… Oh yes. Fire service!’ (You can tell I’ve been trained to deal with crises.)
Now I had not consulted before taking this action. I am usually a team player and I admit that this was not a simple oversight – I knew that my husband would have argued against involving a third party – even as he was being transported from me on a cloud of smoke he would be saying, ‘Nonsense! It’ll be fine.’
I had taken a unilateral decision for which I would be chastised for the rest of time… Especially as when I returned to the scene, the men had equipped themselves with spades and the large yard broom and at last appeared to have the advancing edge of flame under control – although my broom was smoking.
I ran back to the house and that is when I discovered that you can’t un-call the Fire Service.
All I could do was put the kettle on.
(Seriously though, our Fire Service is voluntary — they came very quickly and we are very grateful and sorry if I wasted their time (and please note the personal pronoun).