New skill to add to the CV: Firefighting…

I’m sitting on the balcony at my house looking out at the forest, or I should say what’s left of it. I spent the whole of last night fighting a forest fire that made its way onto the property where I live. I’ve had plenty of interesting and unique experiences since living in the mountains of India, but this one goes to the top of the list. With no rains in the last month and the temperature rising everyday, every animal and plant seems to be counting down the days until the arrive of monsoon. The forest during this time is like a matchbox, especially the pine forest…yet another reason why the native oak and rhododendron forests should be restored! Since the arrival of summer I have seen many forest fires (since I have such a great view from my house). A few weeks ago one fire skirted the outside of the office, though there wasn’t too much alarm as it’s protected by a stone wall. Aside from this, these fires have been watched from a distance and I’ve hardly felt threatened by them. This changed quite a bit last evening. At about 9:30pm I visited the house of my neighbor and found him on his veranda watching a rather robust fire just one hill over. We speculated its direction and after sometime decided it was heading the other way. I watched it for a while, and when it seemed to be mostly died down, I went to bed. About 1am I awoke in a panic and without thinking went straight to the window. Sure enough the flames were on the edge of the property and moving towards us. I could hear the crackling of pine needles and underbrush along with screaming, which I realized must be from the families who live in a small gathering of hutments just up the mountain. These people must have been terrified living in an all-pine forest with no protection (their houses are made out of plastic tarps). Luckily there was a group of people from the nearby resort trying to put out the fire, and their houses were okay and no one was hurt. Soon I too found myself along with too of my neighbors trying to put out the fire which moved in a line as it burned the pine needles and brush on the ground. In the past months I’ve really wondered how people fight these fires in the hills. There is no fire department to call, no road for people to arrive on. There is no hoses (not that it matters since there is a major water shortage) The terrain is steep. There are no shovels or rakes to use. Well, last night I learned…You simply break of a branch from a kaffal tree (the greenest at this time of year) and literally beat at the flames. This can be both effective and disastrous depending on the wind. Beating the flames when they’re not too high does work, but once they get some momentum, your beating turns into fanning the flames and all the smoke just comes towards you. It was quite the challenge as once we got one fire out, another would start in from a different direction. Twice I was on the verge of going to bed and just went down to check one more time, and sure enough I the flames were licking up the hill-side. At dawn I finally laid down on my bed listening to the continuing crackling of the flames which I hoped were not getting out of control. An hour later my landlord’s wife came running saying that the fire was approaching Puneet’s house (my neighbor). I ran down with my bathing buckets (the area was close enough to the house to warrant using water). We seemed to get this patch under control just as the construction workers were arriving to help out. My shift as a novice firefighter had ended…

You Might Also Like

2 thoughts on “New skill to add to the CV: Firefighting…

  1. Whoa! I’m glad you’re safe Sara, what an adventure to add to your list! Hope the rains have arrived by now!

  2. That’s so scary – I’m glad to hear that you guys were able to eventually get it under control! I can still picture that beautiful view from your balcony and walking through those huts along the hill…so sad to think of what it must look like now…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Us

Stay up to date on the latest news and help spread the word.

Get Involved

Our regional chapters let you bring the AIF community offline. Meet up and be a part of a chapter near you.

Join a Chapter
Skip to content