By our Day 3, the fire was on its Day 7. Our time together had been exhilarating and enlightening but also exhausting. Now, the weekend was coming and I surely wasn’t ready to give it up to more long, hot days in the bush. This thought kept me going just a little longer.
This is what we had accomplished the day before:
And that morning, we found this little bugger:
Where it came from, God only knows, notice nothing around it is burnt. But it was going to take out our precious camp from the day before if we did nothing. It was the last challenge between us and our relaxing weekend. It was us or it. I squinted my eyes in an evil glare. Challenge accepted. You’re going down, mister.
Back at home, Jay and I load the truck with our whole staff, all three of them, a firebeater for each of us, lots of water to drink, and of course, the dog, who wouldn’t stay behind even for a really hot lady dog. We figured with the five of us we could put this guy out without a firefighter, which was good since we didn’t have one. Then, one more time, we headed out into the bush.
The fire had grown considerably since we visited it earlier. If we had waited any longer, it may have been beyond our meager man power. The next two hours we walked along the edge of it, beating, coughing, beating, and then jumping around the next man to the next flames. We followed it from the road we had carved out the day before to a hill it was climbing on the other side of a vast field. Then we walked back again to put out those tricky spots that wait til you’re gone and then relight. There were many.
Four of us reached the truck at the same time and all went immediately for the water bottles. Jay lagged behind, inspecting our work. Our grade: incomplete. Those tricky spots were not done fighting yet.
So we split up, the staff took the low road, retracing our path once again, moving every stick, every log, every patch of grass near the edge threatening to start up again. Jay and I took the high road on the hill, doing the same thing. Sniffel, the dog, now bored of the peaceful shade of the truck, came with us.
In my brain I told myself over and over, if we didn’t get this right we’d be back here tomorrow. Do it now, rest later. My legs trudged slowly and grumpily up and over the rocks. My eyes searched for even the smallest snake of smoke creeping through the air. We found a few; mainly logs that were still smoldering and would light dry grass if they burned their whole length. We tossed them into the already burnt blackness. Another hour or so and we met the guys halfway. The dog had disappeared, probably gone back to resume his nap in the truck. Slowly, scanning the fireline one more time, we all meandered back as well.
At this point, all of us would have been happy to head home and accept our victory. And we would have had Sniffel been there. But he was not. Nor did he come when we called. Nor was he anywhere to be seen. You would think a little white fluffball would stick out amongst a charred landscape but he also tends to look like a rock. He never runs away and if he gets tired of whatever we’re doing he returns to the car. We worried his superior nose (hence his name) had lost its way with everything being burnt and smoked. Wherever he was, he was hot, dehydrated, and far from home. We weren’t leaving without him. The truck of men drove down the road to see if he might respond to the sound of the engine. I headed back into the hills, no longer tired, but wondering if the fire had won after all.
Then Jay’s voice broke through: He’s here! I ran back to the truck greatly relieved yet pissed off to see the little butthead that made me worry. He was panting hard but seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed his unknown adventure.
That was the last we saw of the fire. It seems to have petered out on the neighbor’s farm. With a little luck the rains will come soon and all will be safe until next year when the firefighters will be ready and the dog will stay at home.