Thursday, November 06, 2008

Evening of fire.

Last night was unseasonably warm in Detroit, and we knew this ahead of time. Or, more to the point, I did -- if it's not motorcycle season, I don't usually really pay much attention to weather forecasts. But I knew Wednesday was going to be nice, so I intended to rush home from work and start a fire in my almost-unused firepit.

It was dug for me this past summer, but it sat there, full of wood but forlorn and neglected, until a couple of weeks ago. That was when I started to have to deal with leaves, which brought home the fact that I had several feet of branches stacked up next to my house. (Feet is the official unit of measurement for branches, right?) They obviously weren't going to burn themselves -- well, hopefully -- and leaving them to rot over the winter seemed so unappealing. So I made a fire. It almost cost me my eyebrows, but I managed. Twice. That got me through a good portion of my pre-cut detritus from the summer. (Typically I throw manageable branches down the ravine, and leave the BIG stuff at the curb for the city chipping crew.)

I still contend I suck at fire, but I'm improving. So I had big hopes when I got started last night. With the addition of some now well-dried leaves, it actually got going pretty well without too much effort. I got started at about 6 and didn't come in until midnight, tending and feeding the fire continually nearly the whole time.

At about 9.30, the fire was going quite nicely, and it was still warm enough out that I was wearing just a long-sleeved jersey with no jacket. I'd even taken my hat off by then, but, naturally, still had my earbuds in, listening to some podcast or other. Standing for a moment just enjoying the burn, in the extreme north east corner of my yard, I heard the *beepbeepbeep* of reversing heavy equipment from the street behind me. With the size of my yard, that street is, oh, I'm going to say, 600 feet away. I turned around, popped out my earbuds, and watched a full-size hook and ladder backing across the end of my driveway.

It seemed like the thing to do at that point was to walk down to the street to see what was up, so I grabbed my jacket and made my way. There are no street lights in my neighborhood, and loads of trees on large lots. So I was very near the end of my driveway before the two firemen even noticed me there, acknowledging my presence with about 50,000 candlepower in my general direction.

"Hi there!" I squinted and waved.

"Oh hello. Sorry about that."

"That's okay. Everything all right?"

"Well, we saw some smoke around the neighborhood and wanted to make sure no one's house was on fire..."

Oh good. No one had called -- I'd have been very shocked by that. Because there were still some damp leaves in the burn, there definitely were some smoky periods. And because the air was cooler, the smoke was staying dense and low.

I smiled and told them, "Yeah, that's me. I've got a little firepit in the back. I figured this was my last nice night to really enjoy burning some leftovers from the summer. You wanna come check it out?"

So the two firemen -- and why are firemen always, like, 6'6" anyway? -- followed me back across my yard. "You're not in any trouble or anything, we just saw--"

"Oh, I know, I know. I'm glad you came; I appreciate it."

"Wow, this is nice back here, huh? Got all this to yourself?"

"Yep. I like it, but it's a pain sometimes. Watch your footing, the ground's soft."

When we finally got close enough, the fire was looking healthy and manageable, with my little lawn chair keeping an eye.

"Oh yeah, there it is," the smaller fireman said. (He was only 6'4".) "The open burn is totally fine. Not close to any houses... Have a hose or a bucket nearby and don't burn any leaves."

"All right, I'll do that."

"Sorry to have interrupted. Have a nice night!"

And off they went into the smoky darkness.

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