Tommy and Val had worked a cotton bale fire for over twenty hours and were exhausted.
The radio announced another fire, just as they were getting ready to go home.
“Attention Volunteers, respond to South Eighty Seven by Buffalo Country Fina in reference to a grass fire.”
Tommy heard Val’s whimper and said sympathetically, “We’ll just go take a look. If it’s not too bad, I’ll take you on home.” He picked up the radio mike. “Seven Oh One enroute.”
When they reached the south end of town, they could see the column of smoke. It was several miles wide and moving fast. Val slumped deeper into her seat.
“Sorry, dear.” Tommy flipped on his lights and siren and pressed harder on the gas pedal.
“It’s ok.” Val let go of hopes for bed and bath and tightened her seat belt.
They crested the hill on the south end of town and saw that the fire was moving east. A large brick house stood off the highway, and the fire was slow burning toward it. Tommy pulled into the drive that had an archway with “Young” artfully placed in the bricks.
“A widow lives there,” Tommy said. “Go up to the door and see if anyone is home.”
Val knocked on the door several times before Mrs. Young answered.
“Yes?” Mrs. Young was gray-haired and slender
“Ma’am, I’m with the County Fire Department. Were you aware that there was a grass fire near your house?” Val gestured south, to her right.
“No, I wasn’t!” The lady looked scared. She stepped out the door and pointed to some garden hoses on the lawn. “I have these.”
Val waved at Tommy and he sped down the drive to go to the fire.
Too late, Val realized that he had left her without a radio.
She grabbed a hose and dragged it to the back yard.
At the edge of the back yard was dry grass, browned from the winter’s drought. A few yards beyond that, a thicket of cedar bushes, common in West Texas, encircled the house. Cedar bushes had a spectacular way of exploding during fires.
Mrs. Young turned on the hoses and a small trickle dribbled out of the end.
Val looked at the homeowner in shock. “Is this all there is?”
Mrs. Young shrugged. “That’s all I’ve ever been able to get out of these outside taps.”
Val and Mrs. Young made the best of it and wet down the grass.
What was that? Val stood quietly and listened. She heard the unmistakable crackle and pop of the fire. She could not see the smoke column from where they were at, but it was definitely getting close!
“Mrs. Young, could you call 9-1-1 and let them know that the fire is getting close to your house and you need a truck?” Val said as calmly as she could.
Mrs. Young ran into the house and came back with a wireless phone. “The phone is out!”
Right about then, the trickle from the water hoses stopped. The well was out, too. The fire must have burned down the power lines.
A new noise came to her ears and Val saw a vehicle coming down the drive. It was a man looking for Tommy. She gave him the general directions and implored him to tell Tommy that she needed a truck to protect this house, right away!
The crackles and pops were getting closer by the minute and Val eyed the driveway. Would they be able to out run the fire?
Val opened her mouth to advise Mrs. Young that they needed to leave; the fire was getting too close. A fire truck pulled into the drive, lights and sirens going.
The firefighters drove into the thick cedar bushes and disappeared from sight. Soon, they had the fire pushed away from the house and made a fire break around it.
Val’s son, Josh, arrived a few minutes later, picked her up, and took her to the command post. There, Val worked on the accountability papers until the next morning.
The fire was finally out, and Val and Tommy made their way home to bath and bed.
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