• Rachel Anne Baer

Covid Musings - Fires

#covid19 #pandemic #fires #firesbringcomfort #firesdestroy #family

Last week we were just getting our delivery of wood, a cord of logs to stack ready to keep us warm for the coming winter. Although we don’t heat our home with wood alone, we have gas heaters which provide most of the warmth which are very efficient, we like to use the fireplace in the living room, usually just on weekends or snow days for additional warmth and coziness.

I somehow suspect we will be using the fireplace much more this year as we will be hunkering down in our homes much more than usual due to the virus showing no signs of letting up.

I love to light the fire late afternoons, snuggle into a comfy chair with a cup of tea and later on a glass of wine, with a good book and a cat or two for company. It was one of the “must haves” on our list in choosing our home seventeen years ago.

The wood had arrived, and the dauntingly large pile lay before me as close to the log rack as the driver could get it, for that I was grateful.

My husband came out to greet the driver as he is a friend from the fire department who provides a small amount of seasoned wood to those he knows. I grabbed my gardening gloves and began the hard work of stacking the wood. With the two of us working hard in an almost rhythmic fashion in just under an hour we gazed on a neatly stacked pile of wood.

There’s something very satisfying about admiring the hard work you have done, especially when it represents warmth and comfort for the cold winter ahead of us.

The irony was not lost on me as I thought of the communities in California & Oregon that were having to deal with unprecedented forest fires. Thousands having lost virtually everything they own. Later that evening my own brother contacted me to say he & his wife were on the edge of an evacuation zone, the photo of the sky above his home near Portland Oregon was horrific. An almost unbelievable hazy sky with dark black smoke taking up most of the view. The text he sent accompanying the photo made me laugh, “feeling concerned” this was so typically English, possibly one of the biggest understatements of the year. I would have been reacting a little differently I am sure.

Of course, I had seen the terrible news reports showing pictures that could have come right out of a horror movie. However, my brother lived in a built-up area, in a neighborhood much like ours, not out in the woods or wilderness at all, I found it hard to comprehend that such powerful wildfires could be so close, but they were. The scenes were from Armageddon! We had a worrying few days as they packed up essentials and waited it out. How on earth do you decide what to take with you? It was a harrowing time especially for them, fortunately we heard this past Saturday evening that the fire was no longer coming any closer and they had been taken off the danger list for now.

My brother being super cautious & organized had already updated his photos of every cupboard and shelf in each room, something I have still not got around to doing several years after having a house fire. I should not have been surprised; I had forgotten he used to be a loss adjuster for an insurance company. If you haven’t done this perhaps now is a good time, when we are collectively spending more time in our homes. A lack of time is no longer an excuse for many things we have been putting off doing.

My experience of a house fire was traumatic enough but to actually be in fear of losing not just your entire home but your whole neighborhood & way of life, leaving for fear of being burned alive. I just can’t imagine. With so many people out of their homes & livelihoods we have a huge population experiencing collective trauma that will continue for years.

The situation is still dire, with the fire that threatened their home not predicted to be put out until the end of October, another fact that is hard to get my head around. Life is still a challenge even for those who are fortunate enough to have their homes, the air pollution is being recorded as the worst in the world, they can’t drive anywhere as the air is thick with black toxic smoke, the air conditioning can’t run and even though they have plugged all vents in the house smoke is still getting in. The dogs haven’t been walked in two weeks now, just let out quickly to do their business due to the pollution. How much more devastating is it for the thousands sleeping in tents, who just a few days ago were in the comfort of their homes.

The real heroes here are the brave men & women fighting the fires, they seem to get little if any rest, many of them even witnessing their own homes being burned to the ground, unable to save them due to the intensity of the blaze. I can’t imagine the heat and exhaustion, the feeling that it will never end. Perhaps this will convince any unbelievers that climate change is indeed real.

I worry and wonder how this will all end, apparently; they are not yet halfway through the fire season. With strange weather patterns worldwide and an overactive hurricane season dumping vast amounts of rain in other states the seasons are being turned inside out with the fires themselves being so intense that they create their own weather patterns.

On the weather forecast today Oregon is due for some rain, let’s hope so, although storms are also predicted, with danger of lightning strikes that could start up yet more fires.

Here in Connecticut we are also experiencing a severe drought, no significant rain in our forecast, just yesterday there was a high fire danger warning due to high winds, lack of humidity and dry conditions. Hoping that people here heed the warnings from the west coast and choose to not have campfires, fireworks etc. that could create a hazardous situation here.

It will be interesting to read back on this a few years from now and see how this time is perceived, will we have made the necessary changes to try and reverse climate change? We will have to wait and see.

This started out as a personal account and ended up being more of a record of these Covid times.

What are your records/Covid memories?

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