I was hauling wood last night. Precious wood… How many board feet did I move? Some of the wood I carried was hearty hard wood with strength that soft pine could never see. I was toting wood that was first used as trim in my house in 1905. I was discarding what seemed like hundreds of piece of more or less good wood. I need to clear my cellar.
So into the construction dumpster the wood was going.
I was using a neighbor’s construction debris bags. Perhaps ‘deconstruction’ debris is a better word.
The house they live in caught fire. I remember the night. I was in deep sleep at about 2 am when my front door rang. I sprang out of bed and went to the front window. I peered at the porch in front of the door; no one was there. I looked to the street and saw a shaved headed man with no shirt on. Was he drunk? He went to the neighbor across the street’s house and rang the door bell. I wondered what he was looking for. I lost sight of him in the bushes in front of my windows.
I heard a woman’s voice call out, the man answered, “Call the fire department, my house is on fire.” He sounded so calm. I wondered which house it was as grabbed some shorts and a tank top and shoes. I heard him give the address to the woman but did not know the house on the main street off our side street. I went out and looked up Pope’s Hill and saw the red and orange flames coming out of a house I knew about fifty yards away. Joe and his wife and young daughter were people I saw every couple of days on the street as I skated, or put out the trash, or trimmed my hedges. They did not have a driveway so they parked on my side street.
Often when I was out skating at 5 o’clock in the morning I would look up on the hill there small house was on and see lights. I knew Joe’s wife liked to get to the gym early in the morning.
The night of the fire I was looking up the hill at a house with flames coming out of a window and licking up the side of the structure. The trees above where glowing with the light. The fire engines came very quickly and soon the double width street was filled with numerous fire and emergency vehicles. Up and down the steep hill there were red and white lights flashing and dozens of people standing around while a crew of ten men went up the steep steps to the house to put out the flames.
I saw Joe talk with fire marshals and he explained that he was asleep around 2 o’clock when he woke up to smoke and the smell of fire. He thought of his wife and daughter, but quickly remembered that they had gone on vacation a day before. I happened to be on the street inline skating when the family walked by to go to their car so Joe could drive his wife and daughter to the airport.
Within hours I was handing a spare shirt to Joe as he stood shirtless on the street watching his home burn.
The multiple crews of the fire brigade smashed their way through windows and doors and walls and put the fire out. The blaze had only been going for about half an hour when it was extinguished. The night was hot, and I heard the fire marshal explain that the men only put in twenty minutes of work before being relieved by another crew. But…the damage to the small house was total. I got a look inside later and saw everything burned, furniture, floor, books, electronic devices….burned and melted and blackened. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the inside of a burned home before. What a lesson in fire safety. That was part of the reason I was clearing all the dead wood out of my cellar.
So as the early evening fell and I was putting out the regular trash barrels and recycle bin I started collecting the waste wood I had from a torn down fence in the backyard. I saw a big crane lifting the full portable dumpster bags that looked like they were about twenty feet by ten feet and four feet high.
There were four of them arrayed on the lawn above the high wall of the hill house. I figured Joe would not mind if I used them, and that the workers would probably not notice the evening additions. I was planning to tell Joe the next time I saw him. I exchanged the t-shirt I gave him for the wood toss.