4 September 2010

Fire!




Wednesday was a lovely hot summer's day with a stiff breeze blowing from midday onwards. Around 5.30 p.m. I was sitting watching the progress of a forest fire in the valley below when I realized that there was rather a lot of smoke around the house for it to be coming from such a long way away. A glance out of the north facing window and we went into instant panic mode - thick smoke coming straight at us from the heavily wooded mountainside. The wind by now was blowing very strongly and we couldn't see enough through the smoke to gauge the level of danger so we jumped into the car and drove up the hill to be met by a wall of flame sweeping down the mountain, but also more smoke from slightly below the house. At any rate, it was enough to send us rushing home to fill the car with essentials - photos, documents to prove who we are, the computer and the dog! - before I fled to the safety of a friend's summer house a few kilometres away where I was joined by my daughter and her two little ones. (Thank you, Nancy, for accepting the refugees and providing cups of tea).

As I was leaving most of the village were arriving at the fire to see what help was needed and the fire engines had left the valley fire and sped up to this new, much bigger, threat. Husband stayed to help the firemen find our hosepipe and taps if necessary! Because of the strength of the wind, the small Corfu-based 'planes could not fly, so it was necessary to await the helicopters and larger fire-fighting 'planes from the mainland. What a relief when they started dropping water on the flames which they did until nightfall around 8 p.m.

Two very anxious hours later - during which I tried to contact husband with no success (picturing him frantically pouring water over our smoldering house) because he had packed his mobile into my car with the valuables. Just as I was on the point of despair the phone rang - from our home number. All was well, and an hour later, having been given the final all clear, I returned home. Walking up the hill to survey the scene at midnight we realized just how lucky we had been - and also that there was still considerable risk from burning trees ready to burst into flames again. The firemen were in evidence throughout the night and water lorries trundled up and down the hill at regular intervals. We slept fitfully with lungs full of smoke, and finally rose when the helicopters returned at daybreak.

This is the third big fire we have experienced whilst we have been living here, and most definitely the closest. In daylight it was obvious just how very lucky we had been - with charred trees and shrubbery just five metres from the road next to our garden.

Heartfelt thanks to the firemen who were still in situ this evening, 48 hours later, despite the steady rain now falling. Who cares if the house and surroundings smell like a giant ashtray - we still have a roof over our heads, which was in considerable doubt for quite some time!
Susan