Fire School

I had a ring-side seat for some unique entertainment last night.

First, let me explain the setting. I live across the road from what used to be my grandparents’ (and great-grandparents’) farmhouse. Over the last twenty years of being vacant, it has fallen into a state of extreme disrepair. Broken windows, broken shutters, missing chunks of roof, the front porch and several chimneys have collapsed. It’s heartbreaking. I grew up in that house. It has served as the home for several of my characters (the livable version that I remember from my youth, that is).

The guy who owns the property doesn’t live on or near it. He has no history with the farm, so he has no attachment to it.

Unlike me.

But the sad, abandoned farmhouse has a new purpose. One that I greet with mixed emotions. It’s being used for fire school.

To those who don’t know about such things, firefighters learn their craft at fire school. Our county owns property where they hold trainings. But nothing beats a real structure for learning the ins and outs of fighting a fire.

Over the past couple of weeks, the newbies and their instructors have met across the road from my house for some hands-on training. The first time, it was too cold to sit outside and observe. But I watched them drag hoses around for a couple hours. Last night was much more entertaining. I took a book and settled into my front porch swing.

They broke into groups and practiced different firefighting skills at different areas around the huge old house. The only class I could observe was How to Climb a Ladder to the Second Story with a Charged Fire Hose and Enter the House through a Window. Without falling off the ladder. That first time they dragged hoses around, there was no water. Last night, the hoses were fully charged. They sprayed the trees. Occasionally, I heard an authoritative voice yell, “No, no, NO!” Or “Right! Not left! RIGHT!”

Watching young, aspiring firefighters struggle up an extension ladder, weighed down by a full suit of bunker gear and lugging a fat, heavy fire hose gave me an even deeper appreciation of the profession. Since I’m scared of heights and of fire, I think fire fighters are some of the bravest souls on earth.

They’re also completely nuts. I swear, there is a fine line between fire fighters and pyromaniacs. You have to love fire to want to race to each one and charge into its midst. Not for me. No, sir. Uh-uh.

No one fell off the ladder. No ambulances were summoned. High fives abounded.

But I know where this fire school thing is headed. The culmination of the training—the final exam, if you will—is going to consist of actually fighting a fire. A controlled fire. As in, burning the old farmhouse and letting the trainees put out the flames.

I am not a firefighter. I am not a pyromaniac. What I am is a pyroPHOBIAC. Our house caught on fire when I was a kid, a result of a lightning strike. Our barn burnt down when I was a teen, the result of an arsonist. I’ve seen too much. It gives me nightmares. So while I rank firefighters as some of our country’s greatest heroes, and while watching fire school from the comfort of my porch swing is hugely entertaining, I think, given the choice, I’ll play hooky from their final exam.


elysabeth said…
Awww that's kind of sad. You will have your childhood home destroyed for the benefit of the fire trainees. But I agree with you about firefighters - they have to love fire and by a bit of a maniac to do what they do; I tip my hat to them as well. I'm afraid of heights, not so much afraid as fire, but still don't like it especially knowing how much damage it can do to anyone's life. I hope they do their final exam when you are not around to see the fire, but upon seeing the remains, you will be saddened a bit more. I hope you make it through the "final exam" without too much heartache. - see you in the postings - E :)

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