Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fire! Fire! Pour on water.

A dear Jamaican friend, S, had a close enough encounter with nature this weekend. After a few days she was able to collect her thoughts and recollect her experience.


I want my typical Sunday morning, with usual lazy beginning. The house is quiet, nestled on its little hill with a view of the south coast. Everyone is sleeping an extra two hours. Then the start. A big Jamaican breakfast, full of cholesterol, fried fish an'. Cho' No bammi here. This is Bim, so not so typical Sunday morning.

Already the focus is on other things. I have a book to read for my club this week and I must finish it quickly. Ah. Some peace. Husband wanders past the bedroom window. "Lawd!" he shrieks. I blink. He's not usually the one to remind us it's time for church. "Look! The bush is on fire! Girls, girls come look ah dis, it's a bush fire!" Where is the camera when you need it?

But children, focused on Tweetie and Sylvester, can muster only "Hey, neat Dad". Back to zombie training for them.

A full 20 minutes later the fire is still raging. Husband is sharp--many degrees. "Ah, Honey, this maybe serious. Come take a look." Yessirreee, the fire was spreading, the wind was high and it was coming our way. I called the
fire brigade, and Husband pulled on some long pants and sneakers and rushed out to get a better feel for what's going on.

The very nice gentleman at the fire station assures me that there is already an "appliance" at the scene. What is that? A dish washer? A twin tub washing machine? Something full of water? I look and I can't see anything and I certainly don't hear anything but the crackling of fire. I look through the window again and see Husband doing more exercise than he has tried for years: he's running toward the house. I'm not panicking. BUT THIS MAY BE MAJOR. I call the nice people at the fire station again. I get that Bajan response that I don't understand, "Yes, please" and more of the same ... appliance there already. My reaction is the same as before. WHERE IS THE FIRE ENGINE?

What to do next? We're new here. Perhaps the procedures are different. Maybe my friends over by Pine Gardens will know what to do. I call "The Blogger". Voice message. What's he doing? He always has his phone. I call his wife. Nothing. Blast! She must be at church. "Please pray for me" I beg in my mind. The fire is getting closer and the crackling sound of burning bushes is louder. Is it getting hotter or is it the sound that makes it feels hotter? If I can only get someone on the phone, I am sure they will hear the sound of the fire and know that this is really happening.

I finally pull on some proper clothes. Why didn't I listen to what my mother told me and "sleep in decent clothes, because fire might bruk out inna de night an you haffe run outta de house"?

Downstairs the smoke is billowing and it and soot are coming though the windows and doors. I called to the helper "Come up here now, please". Polite but urgent. She gets it. Something is not right. Kids and helper come running. Calm disappears as the helper yelps "Lawd Jesas Chryse! Ah wha dis pan mi inna Bahbadas? Me neva see dis yet, lawd Jesas."

I am Ice Baby now. "Okay, M. Calm down and help me get the furniture off the patio and into the house."

Big pickney: "Mommy should we jump into the pool?"
Ice Baby: "No E. Not now."
Big pickney: "When Mom? The fire's close!"

Confusion is rising and we hurriedly pull sofas, tables, and lamps too, into the house, the kids are like red ants running around our feet and getting in the way.

"Where is mi husban'?" I scream in my head. Depsperately, I call friends in St. James, far away, but so what. Can't get them. Church again. I try "The Blogger" and his wife again. Nothing but that very annoying American lady telling me to leave a message.

Our neighbour is banging on the door. First time. She comes in. No introductions. Hurries past me with a "Are you guys alright?" and out to the patio and starts pulling in furniture. Thank God for a worker bee. Maybe she can organize this crowd, I think. "You should pull in the carpets too, those will ignite the fastest" she advised, helpfully. Big pickney starts coughing; neighbour offers to take her and her little sister to her house across the road.

I see Husband now, outside. He has the garden hose pointed at the roof, but the trickle coming out of it is something I have seen somewhere before, can't remember where, but I'm sure it is from an animated classic.

At last the fire truck comes past the house. I wish I could say "raced by" but nope. I go out to speak with them. I meet Mr. Trotman. He is the surveyor. He says he was summoned from church and they had been fighting the fire across the way in a cane field since 9 o'clock. It's now around 11. He assures us this is not serious and gives us some gardening tips for keeping the fire away next time around. In mid sentence he excuses himself and hastens towards the firetruck and the firemen. "Riley, be careful, there is cowitch over there!" Riley walks back towards Trotman."Cowitch? Which direction?" I get the sense this whole operation is at risk. Anyway the fire behind our house has been extinguished. It probably took out most of the cowitch too, so that's a good thing.

Husband summarizes with cold intellectual clarity, "Good thing this happened so early in the dry season, now there's not much to fuel future fires." Thank you, dear.

"The Blogger" finally calls back. I'm not in Hell.



Jdid said...

appliance on the scene. now that is classic!

CT said...

Thank God everyone (and everything...apart from the bushes) came out unscathed. It must have been a fightening experience. Good read...nice photo of the fire.

It's ME!!!! said...

I know they can be scary but I can't honestly remember the last time that I heard of a house being damaged by a bush fire.

The appliance guys generally know their business

Janice said...

Lawd Gad,look how mi nearly stay a Jamaica and hear sey di whole a unu dead off. Unu come back home yu hear.

Astrid said...

Great story. I'm glad that all ended well. Will keep reading this blog.