Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Fire Department Burned My Neighbor's House Down


This is easily the most exciting thing to happen to me during the entire pandemic so far.

A couple of months ago, a form letter from the county showed up in my mailbox, telling me that the fire department was going to burn down a neighbor's vacant house. This house has sat unoccupied for SO long, long enough that I've periodically contemplated sneaking over to steal their perennials (I didn't, but I totally should have) or to climb in through the OPEN WINDOWS to see if they had any antique fixtures I could "salvage" (I didn't do that, either, and that one's probably just as well since that's probably a bigger crime than digging up daffodil bulbs). 

Anyway, that's how Operation: Structure Fire began. The letter didn't include any information about when this burn was supposed to occur, so I became obsessed with keeping a weather eye on the house, because god forbid I MISS A LITERAL HOUSE FIRE!!!! Fortunately, the window next to my desk (the one that also serves as Jones' kitty TV) looks in that direction, but as if I wasn't already afraid enough of venturing out into the real, germ-filled world, I became even more reluctant to go out and about, because what if the day I chose to drag my family out hiking was the day the fire department burned the house down!?!

I got even more excited when fire trucks from all over the county started showing up to the house, even though they'd just pull up, hang out for a few hours, then leave and be replaced by new ones. This continued for DAYS. Matt's best guess is that everyone was coming by for some kind of structure fire instructional seminar or something, but it threw me enough that I seriously considered not taking Syd to some random mandatory in-person standardized test the high school arbitrarily assigned her to (it doesn't even count for anything! They made her miss three actual classes to take it, and now that everything is online you don't even get a break on your homework if you've got an excused absence from class!). I did take Will to our regular Girl Scout volunteer gig with the Backpack Buddies program one county over, but I swear we have NEVER worked so fast to pack weekend meals for schoolchildren!

After all that, it turns out that one extremely rainy Saturday morning was The Big Day. The fire trucks came back, the drive-in next door filled up with firefighter overflow parking, and everyone milled about under their pop-up tents while my family sat on lawn chairs in our backyard and eyed them through binoculars while simultaneously eating Cheez-Its. 

It was a legit party, y'all!

For the first few hours, the fire looked mostly like this:

A firefighter who was cutting through our yard and had the misfortune to come upon us sitting in lawn chairs, eating Cheez-Its, and gossiping about his buddies while staring at them through binoculars kindly explained that they were starting small fires in the house, then sending all the rookie firefighters in so they could get some real-world experience. You know how big firefighters are on experiential education!

But when all the rookie firefighters had had their opportunity for experiential learning, the real fun began! We'd gone inside after becoming desensitized to baby fires, but when I saw black smoke begin to drift up, I bolted from my window look-out station. On my way outside I ran past Syd, who was in the middle of Zoom pointe class, and was all, "Tell them you have to go! THE FIRE IS HAPPENING!!!!!"

Obviously, I was really, really chill about this long-anticipated excitement:

Matt is always way more genuinely chill:

Matt and Syd traded the binoculars back and forth, while I used my telephoto lens to pick out all the lovely details of a house on fire:

But then sometimes you've got to zoom back out, so you can see the fire in all its glory!

It maybe got a *little* less exciting as enough of the house was burned to make the fire die down a little, but that just means that you could see the details better, vote on what part of the house was going to collapse next, and then cheer whenever it did:

Eventually, just a couple of the sturdiest corners were left actually standing:

Eventually even those corners collapsed, but by the next morning the foundation was still smoldering... which... okay, I guess that's fine because it was pretty much pouring this entire time, but, I mean, I live right over there? Next to that unsupervised but still smoldering literal house fire? Just alongside a woods full of trees and a multi-storey plywood movie screen?

Whatever, it was fine. 

You guys, I don't even know what I should look forward to next that has even half the excitement level that this has brought to my life. I mean, I'm excited about taking my Girl Scout troop camping, but that's also a lot of work. I'm excited about remodeling the kids' bathroom, but that consists of spending money and also work. I'm excited about an upcoming road trip to see Matt's relatives, but also insanely stressed out about it because, you know, that whole global pandemic that we're in. 

It just seems like it's going to be a lot of effort to find something else in my life as magical as sitting in a lawn chair in my backyard, eating Cheez-its, my cat weaving back and forth between my feet, and watching a house burn flat to the ground. That is a SERIOUSLY good way to spend a Saturday, you guys.

No comments: