Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Fire Season, Part II: The Important Part

The curious and concerned are still seated in the semi-round shelves in the tent. There's that comfortable buzz from neighbors who know one another well and have loads to catch up on. Roger and I didn't know many neighbors yet and so were pretty quiet. All I said as hot flash after hot flash overwhelmed me was, "I should have brought that weird looking plastic water bottle with the battery-powered fan on the end." Then, just when I thought we were ready to begin, William dramatically walked to the center of the tent, turned on a gas jet and lit it. Now it was not only 105 inside the tent but we had a gas fire burning cozily just to add to the flippin' ambiance. We're at a fire safety meeting and he's lighting a fire, inside a tent, with dried stalks of bamboo and arrundo flopped this way and that outside the two of which I'm seated as close to as possible.

William then introduced the speakers. One has been active for years on a committee known as Arson Watch. Apparently they cruise all over Topanga, keeping an especially vigilant attitude towards the state parks where more visitors, as opposed to residents, hike. He told us of efforts he had made over the years and then told some particularly freaky stories (to me, anyway) about the '93 Malibu/Topanga fire. Then a fire chief spoke. He too pretty much completely freaked me out. Finally, this plumber started talking. He was taking over the position from the first speaker, who was moving to the DC suburbs because of family issues. The plumber kept going off on crazy tacks that kept me wide-eyed and on the edge of my seat. He was all about defending the home, even when the fires of hell are licking at your flip-flops. All I remember of his chat was a story of fishing line and roll-up screens and how to keep your windows from imploding. IMPLODING, I thought... IMPLODING? What the hell is he talking about??? Here's the deal: as a fashion accessory have screening hung above the outside of every window. Then roll it upwards and use fishing line to keep it up. When the flames start licking at your house (LICKING AT YOUR HOUSE???) the heat will melt the fishing line, the screens will roll down and cover your windows and this will keep them from imploding. That's not gonna happen, I thought. My husband couldn't even come to terms with a satellite TV dish being hung on our rooftop because it destroyed the visual line of the house as you drive up the driveway.

It didn't help that we were sitting next to our down-the-street neighbors, Louise & Doug. They are great people and have lived in this Canyon for 40+ years. They know everything worth knowing and are fabulous resources for us, besides being very kind, BUT they defended their home against that last big fire and have pictures on the wall to prove it. Louise, whose lungs sound pretty shot at the best of times, was outside with a wet towel turbanning her head beating the live embers that landed near the house. Doug was probably on the roof doing the same. All I know is they have told me more stories and showed me more photographs of freakin' fires than I have ever wanted to hear or see.

The meeting droned on. All I wanted to do was get the hell out of the tent, go home and sit in front of the fan. I stopped listening to fire stories early in the evening and just looked at people and thought, wow, these are my new neighbors. Bet they didn't vote for Bush, a comforting thought. That was way more interesting since I know for sure...if and when there's a fire around here, I am out of here. I'll grab the photos, the art and some underwear and then I'm gone. It's just a flippin' house.


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12:07 AM  

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