It was the coldest day of the year a couple weeks after a monster snow storm dumped a massive amount of snow on us when my neighbour rang my door bell and told me he saw thick black smoke coming from my backyard. He was shoveling snow from his driveway when he saw the smoke, ran over to look and called 911. I quickly ran to the kitchen to see what was happening and noticed that my neighbour’s backyard was on fire!
It seemed surreal that we had 23 centimeters of snow and their was a fire blazing outside. I heard no sirens in the distance which I figured should be on their way based on when my neighbour called. The wind was picking up and blowing embers on the trees in my backyard, this was quickly turning into an urgent emergency. My kitchen started to smell of smoke and it seemed that an evacuation was eminent if I wanted to be safe.
I decided to call 911 again despite my neighbour making an earlier call. I told them about the fire and did my best to clarify the street where the actual fire was. This turned out to be a good idea as they took my address and I was able to answer questions to direct them to the fire. You see the fire was blazing in a house that was on a different street from mine and the first call did not provide enough information for the fire department to get the exact address. As soon as I hung up from 911 I heard the familiar sounds of sirens echoing in the distance on their way towards our street.
The moment my neighbour told me about the fire I panicked, nothing can prepare you on how to react when you look through your window to see angry red flames and black smoke billowing so close to you. You see it on the news but never imagine such a thing so close to home. I managed to keep it together to call 911 before calling my husband despite my panicked state. I was also thinking of taking up important papers in preparation to get to safety.
Luckily the fire fighters came through my back gate, realizing the fire was over the fence the fire fighter scaled the fence with his hose in tow and put the fire out within minutes. Later on I realized the occupants of the house with the fire was not aware there was a blaze in their backyard. The fire was put out without entering their yard and it was the help of strangers that prevented a more serious disaster from happening.
The whole incident got me thinking about emergencies and how our reactions can make the difference between life and death. I realized a few things about myself, I panic when faced with bad news but there was something that caused me to think practically rather than resort to hysterics. Calling for help immediately was the right thing to do. I also realized that taking pictures in the event of impending doom is not in my nature. It was my husband who told me to take pictures since the fire was under control and evacuation was not necessary.
This incident reminded me about gratitude. I was very grateful for fire services and their quick response times. I am glad my neighbours are safe and the only loss they suffered was their hot tub and parts of their fence which are easily replaced. I am thankful my neighbour rang my door bell to alert me and I am especially indebted to all who work in emergency response, 911 operators, fire fighters and police personnel. They keep us safe everyday.
There are so many disasters happening around the world, we should do our best to keep our families safe by being prepared. Have an emergency plan for your family, emergency and first aid kits are easy to make. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home and don’t forget to change the batteries regularly. Here are a few of my personal being prepared advice – keep some favourite pictures and important documents in water tight packaging, have them easily accessible so they can be retrieved quickly. Dress in appropriate clothes at home so you can make a quick exit in any weather condition. Finally if you need to save something save a life instead of things. I was blessed that day to have a positive outcome from that emergency and I am cognizant that many people played a part in saving homes that day. Be a good neighbour, not just to the person living next door but to everyone you come in contact with. Walk good.