Charlie Hodge

Hodgepodge By Charlie Hodge

Encounter with car fire near home leads to renewed thanks for firefighters.

I have always held firefighters in the highest regard because of the self-less, heroic work they do.

Granted, I comprehend that many of those who choose to run into burning  buildings for a living are  adrenaline  junkies looking for their daily dose of satisfaction – even it often means  they are constantly waiting in an ever-ready state of anticipation. (Unless it is part of your personal mental DNA, it’s difficult to explain the state of being that takes place when spending much of your day waiting on edge for that alarm to go off – for that command to action).

Certainly there are lots of  professions that experience a similar agonizing  ‘wait for the moment  rush’ scenario. Waiting for a signal light to flash, a speaker to bark out orders, a buzzer to blare, or simply the phone to ring. But few, short of paramedics, fire, police, military, and a few select others, involve risking their life to save others.

It is literally the stuff heroes are made out of.

Very early Sunday morning Tez and I met an entire front yard full of heroes.

Actually that’s a tad of an exaggeration.  It was not a yard full – it was a fire truck full, and with the exception of a couple of them they spent most the time on the side of the road battling a mini inferno. And while they did not need to run into any burning buildings, or rescue my wife (despite her fantasy hopes), or rescue our pets – if not for their speedy response and quick actions on the scene things could have been much uglier.

Tez and I crashed around midnight after a fun afternoon taking in the Peachland Fall Fair and a few hours working in the yard. At 4 a.m. the two of us awoke bolt upright to an explosion right outside our house.

At first my brain did not comprehend what the huge blaze of orange and yellow actually was just outside the front garden’s white picket fence. It was a fireball but from what?

Then I saw the outline of a car and realized it was our tenants’ vehicle.

While I called 911 Tez ran downstairs to wake our tenants. With that completed she set about grabbing our cat cages and grabbing our ID while I headed outside to assess the actual state of the increasing inferno. A second explosion from the car rattled my senses as I entered the front yard.

Whether it was simply a case of still trying to mentally overcome bursting out of bed from a dead sleep, or simply a initial state of shock, I was still bewildered by what the precise cause of the chaos and mayhem was. My brain quickly assumed another vehicle had struck the parked car causing the explosion, but after adjusting my eyes to the nearly blinding orange ball my brain sorted out that no other vehicle was involved.

That’s when the rapidly escalating potential horror of situation hit me. I watched as the edge of the hedge by the road burst into flames. That hedge runs half the length of my yard, including close to the house, before being replaced by five  large trees interspersed along the wooden fence into the back yard. Things were looking bright but not good.My mind raced as to where the important things were located in the house, but that thought was immediately replaced with the realization that  I was not going to get to them regardless of where they were since running anywhere with full blown emphysema is not an option.  My priority concerns were getting Tez and the pets out first and then worry about the ‘stuff’.

I was just turning to head into the house and tell Teresa we had run out of time when the fire truck arrived.  I remember thinking, “Thank God, the cavalry has arrived.”

During many years of actual ‘on the beat’ journalism work I recall a number of emergency situations when I arrived at a scenario ahead of any response vehicles.  The angst of  waiting for the life saving help to arrive always seemed agonizing and frustrating however those moments paled to my trepidation when the blaze was threatening my own home. The relief at seeing those men rush towards my house with fire hoses in hand is almost impossible to fully convey.

While one crew battled with the burning car other fireman set about dousing the burning hedge, ending the flames’ ravenous attempt at engulfing my home. I have no doubts that if the blaze had been left unattended for another minute  (or perhaps even less) Tez and I could easily have lost our house. If the fire had actually reached our home it also would have undoubtedly ignited the neighbours.

There is little doubt the blaze was the result of arson. Clearly they did not care that two houses and several lives were also placed in direct danger.

While the result was the destruction of two cars (the other tenant’s car was also destroyed due to heat) some of the hedge, one entire raised garden box (and crops ready to harvest) and three yard compost bins melted into the road – the ultimate destruction could have been much worse.

Tez and I are blessed to still have a home filled with romping kittens and our humble belongings. We have much to be thankful for.I have no question that without the quick response of the firemen and the RCMP we would not be feeling so fortunate today.I cannot find enough superlatives of praise to express my full gratitude.

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