I was going to begin this post with the assertion that "I saved the day!" Then I reviewed the situation in my head and realized I'd be better served by crawling under a rock to hide in embarrassment than trying to claim any responsibility for the successful resolution of the emergency on Old Route 2.
I was taking the scenic route home from dropping off The Boss at pre-school when I noticed flames shooting up from a wood pile situated beneath a simple roof atop four posts. The metal chimney sticking through the low peak was beginning to spew smoke. It sort of made sense. It didn't totally seem out of place. I take the scenic route quite frequently in our bucolic neck of the woods, and small bonfires are common occurrences. I drove on.
About three quarters of a second later, my mental processes sent up the danger flare. The burning wood I had seen was stacked neatly and high. There was enough there to heat a New England home for a month. I began to question the logic of purposely burning it in its stacks. Something was not right. I turned around in a driveway and backtracked to the scene.
The flames were spreading brightly. I puzzled over the incongruity. I picked up the phone. This is the embarrassing part. I called The Partner.
"Okay, you gotta answer me fast. This is important. Is there any situation in which a person would purposely burn wood stacked up in a shed?" I asked.
"God! Just answer me! I don't want to call 9-1-1 if this is, like, normal, but I'm driving home on Old Route 2 and there's wood in a shack and it's burning!"
"Um, I don't know. I guess," he muttered. Then the head shake I could almost hear over the phone: "What?"
I blew out air up past my upper lip in a frustrated sigh. "Now the roof is on fire. This has to be an emergency. I gotta go. Bye."
Then, and only then, did I call 9-1-1. A heavy breeze swept peals of orange and red in curls around the posts of the shed. The heat bit back at the wind.
It never ceases to amaze me what I take as commonplace. Each day is normal until proven otherwise. My instincts are buried beneath routine. I should've known right away that something was amiss; upon second glance, I should've called in the Fire Department.
There are those that tell us to "be vigilant." That's well and good, if you can see past the quotidian haze. I don't always look that deeply. And when I do notice something awry, I question myself, not the scene.
Now I know not to assume that a February fire in an open field is there only to ward off the chill.