The fire’s controlled!

The fire isn’t out, and won’t be completely out for weeks, but it’s controlled. See

But on Sunday night, I had the uncomfortable experience of shutting up a house in the fire’s path. Not my house – this was a friend who couldn’t do it for herself. So you water the garden around the house as much as possible to form a firebreak, and you wet any woodwork as best you can. Any flammable garden furniture goes either inside the house or outside your firebreak. You close all shutters and windows, and you take the curtains and other flammable stuff away from the windows or wet them. You load hard-to-replace documents, sentimental stuff and whatever valuables you can into you car and theirs (some of them are heavy). It’s important to move their car, not just because cars are a major purchase, but because you don’t know how much petrol there is in the tank, although it’s probably enough for a pretty spectacular explosion. While you’re doing all that, you can hear the planes and helicopters buzzing around, and every time you look out, the fire’s got closer and the plumes of smoke bigger. But it’s not near your escape route, so you carry on. Then you close the internal doors and drive away, wondering if you’ll be coming back to a burnt out shell. There are cones across the road, and they’re not letting anybody in, but they let you out.

You sleep very badly, wondering what else you could have done, wondering how the wind’s blowing, wondering how well the firefighters are doing and if they’re safe, wondering if your friend’s house is still a house.

You wake up stiff from lugging stuff around, but the news is that they’ve had good weather all night, the fire is almost controlled, and people in your friend’s village can go back home.

Phew! It was all a waste of effort. And you’re going to have to put it all back.

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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