"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris ... then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." Ernest Hemingway

Saturday, 7 August 2010

High Drama Blogfest - Where are the fire trucks?

Thanks to DLHammons at Cruising Altitude for hosting the High Drama Blogfest/Giveaway.

This is a story I began after the horrendous Victorian bushfires twelve months ago here in Australia. It was hard to write, but I felt compelled. Many people who lived in the serene hill towns outside of Melbourne perished, as tremendous fires destroyed these heavily-timbered towns.

I begin my 500-extract when the MC, Jilly, had just spoken to the fire authority and alerted them to a fire in her area. One of the problems with the Victorian fires was the lack of responsiveness/resources of the fire-fighting authorities. Many perished because of this. Read on…

Her Fire Plan? Jilly slammed the phone down. Oh, God! She was horrified to see the smoke had grown from a whisp to a red twister. The red-orange-black flames were skittering along the ground gobbling the brown grasses and spitting out black stubble. A stiff breeze whipped the flames higher and higher. One good thing -the fire’s direction was away from her house, heading for the opposite ridge.

But she knew the wind could change a fire in a heartbeat.

The gigantic wall of flame was growing before her eyes like a giant genie free from its bottle. She felt an icy creepiness throughout her body even though the temperature was at boiling point.

Where are the fire trucks?

Her knowledge of fires wouldn’t fill a water glass. She’d only just arrived from the city seeking peace and serenity. But even the rawest city slicker knew that water meant salvation. Thankfully the dam just down the hill was still half full from the previous season’s rains, the pump was primed, ready. C’mon. She dashed to the dam and checked the possibilities—did she have enough hose to saturate the house and fill the gutters? Running back up the hill, she clipped a hose to the back outdoor tap and tested it with a few squirts. Fine.

Okay, I have water.

Where…are…the fire trucks?

Running to the front of the house, she was mesmerised by smoke whirling up the hill in her direction like an unwelcome visitor. Oh my Lord! The wind had changed, the fire was coming. A wall of flame was heading her way, galloping across the paddocks like a terrified pack of brumbies. Eucalyptus trees exploding. Animals screaming. Fireballs searing the sky. She was in Dante’s Inferno.

How could fire change so quickly?

She knew she was supposed to go or stay, but she hadn’t thought the fire was going to threaten her. There’d been no warnings. But now it was coming. The power lines were on fire, the wires swinging. Flying cinders were whirling through the sky. It was too late to make a choice—the fire had made it for her. The ferocious blaze was already leap-frogging the valley road and licking its way through her paddock. Escape was impossible.

I’m a survivor. A fire can’t beat me.

Fear got her adrenaline pumping. She ran to the hose. She had to wet everything before the fire reached the dam and wrecked the pump. It was approaching at a terrifying speed.

She dashed inside, wet a towel and wrapped it around her head, covering her mouth. The water pressure was low, but Jilly managed to coax enough out to do the job. She watched as the flames continued their destructive path uphill, well-feulled by the dry summer grasses, dead trees and undergrowth. As she hosed, she looked around in panic. Where could she go? Where could she hide? All she could hear was the cracking of exploding trees and the loud whoosh of the flames as they shattered everything in their path. Everything was on fire. Everything was turning black. Everything was over.

She was surrounded.


To be continued...

Now off you go to read more high drama stories here.

©Denise Covey, 2010


  1. Very intense scene! I'd be mesmerized, too. Great description! I love how the fire ate the dried grass and spit it out again as ash. And what's a brumbie?

  2. Aubrie: Ha! A cultural reference! A brumby is a wild (feral) horse which runs free in some places in Australia (and the US I believe.) Glad you liked the description..:)

  3. Tension built very well, great place to break.

    To be fair to the fire crews they were out and battling the fires. In fact more than a dozen trucks were burnt in the fires. The only reason we didn't lose fire-fighters on the day was emergency shelters they carry now. There was nothing they could really do in the conditions.

    Where the failings were were in the chain of command and the absence of warnings.

    One person I know is alive because a friend phoned her and told her to look outside. She described the sky as a wall of black. She took her kids and drove through flames, luckily she didn't hit fallen trees or other vehicles. Her house went, and most of her neighbours died.

  4. They call brumbies 'mustangs' in the USA.

  5. Al: Thanks so much for filling me in on a couple of points. I know what you're saying about the fire crews but you know scenarios like this would happen. I've read a lot about it and there were cases like Jilly's (silly her for living in the bush.) That's why its TBC. I don't want her to die, she will come up with an escape plan. Quickly.

    I fully support the fire crews but realise there's a lot more to be done with the warning systems. Scary that after the Commission just finished a lot of these problems haven't yet been sorted. Let's hope it never happens again, at least not on the scale of 12 months ago.

    I did have something twanging in my brain about the US. Mustangs, yes, I remember my old Western comics now - 'we gotta break us in some mustaangs. Yee ha!'

    Thanks Al. Havagreatweekend..:)

  6. Thank you for visiting my blog, glad to have found yours. Very interesting story, I have not been to Australia yet, only to Kiribati and Christmas Island, I think they are still far from Australia??

  7. Fires scare me and to be stuck in the middle of it is worse of all. I love how you added the photos, it brought it home for me.


  8. Scary! This could have been my family a while back. The pasture next to our house in the country caught on fire, but the firemen refused to come out because it was outside city limits. They didn't come until we told them it was going into the forest (bad year for wild forest fires). Very dramatic post!

  9. There we aren't enough crews for a time like Black Saturday. And in the end in conditions like that the firefighters fight like crazy just to save their own lives, there is nothing else they can do.

    For Jilly the only safe way out I can see is to shelter in the dam with a wet woollen blanket to protect her head.
    Earth dams are a good place to shelter. The water protects your body from radiant heat.
    Water tanks are a disaster because they literally boil because of the large surface area exposed to the heat

  10. Bunny, yes, these are north of Australia. You must come one day..:)

    Clarissa: Yes, I thought the photos reflected the heat quite well..:)

    Angela: That is a scary thing, but at least the forest was worth saving. Resources are limited, so I guess they make their rules accordingly but not with respect to life sometimes..:)

    Al, ssh. That's exactly what Jilly is/was going to do. That is why I foreshadowed the dam. I heard about a family who survived by jumping in their dam and covering themselves with heavy wet woollen blankets. Thanks for the thumbs up. I've heard about the water tank scenario. Scary indeed. I don't want a predictable outcome like the wind changed again..:(

  11. Hi,

    Great scene, fear pumping adrenalin and I'm thinking fry in the fire or boil in the dam - which is worst!?

    But the awfulness of bush fires is the speed in which they travel and the flash heat. With friends in Melbourne it became imperative over here to watch BBC world news to keep updated. We have relatives in Adelaide and Sydney, so close affinity with OZ - over that of Pommies loving Aussies 'cause we're linked by the umbilical of commonwealth: pun!


  12. Francine: Thank you. Lovely to hear of your OZ connection. We just love the Pommies over here, especially when they arrive for the cricket!

  13. I was thrust into the midst of Jilly's dilemma with your vivid descriptions. Bravo! Fire scares the *beep* out of me. The only thing I can think of more terrifying than losing everything to a fire (home, family photos, one's corner of the world) is taking a stand and fighting it. Your piece played on those emotions, and I was rooting for Jilly and fully engaged through to the end.

    (And I love the word "brumbie!")

  14. Such an intense scene! It was also one of the more unique dramatic pieces in the blogfest. :]

  15. Nicole: Thank you. Glad you enjoyed Jilly's drama..:)

    Amanda: Thank you..:)

  16. Very descriptive scene! I found myself shouting suggestions to the city slicker gone outback.

    My father was a city fireman so I grew up with the utmost respect for fire.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog and becoming a follower. I will look forward to more readings of your written word.

    g'day mate
    Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  17. Jules, yeah, seems like you totally get it. Thanks for the follow also..:)

  18. Now that was drama! The character's fear and indecisiveness. I totally get where she was coming from. And the descriptions, the progression of the flames, the feel of heat. Her rising panic.

    Well done Denise.

    I couldn't get here from your link on DLs site. It kept going to some advertisement site or something. Weird. But I'm glad you stopped by and I got to read this entry. It's simply awesome.


  19. Thanks Donna. Glad you enjoyed my excerpt. Worrying about the link. May explain why I didn't get many from the blogfest reading mine..:)

  20. Wow, dark and intense. I felt as if I were being backed into a gruesome corner with no way out....shiver!!!!

  21. WordsCrafter: Well it had the desired effect then..:)

  22. I love sci-fi/fantasy/etc, but I really love the monsters and hazards of the real world.

    This was a great piece drama and so easy to read. Great job!

    And I am sorry for what had happened. I know fire isn't new out that way but it's tragic just the same.

  23. Nicola, I'm glad you liked it. Yes, fire is a real-life monster..:)

  24. Great story. Scary tension. I have a friend who lost her house and most of her neighbours in those fires. Terrifying.

  25. I certainly hope it's to be continued!You could really taste the fear, and the adrenaline that kept her functioning!

  26. Great drama, excellent description of the blaze! Just one tiny comment, sorry for the niggle:

    "She watched as the flames continued their destructive path uphill, well-feulled by the dry summer grasses."

    I think 'fuelled' would have been sufficient. 'Well-fuelled' didn't seem to fit the sentence. Just my 2 cents...

  27. Lynda: Sorry about your friend's loss. Such a horrible way to die..:)

    Will: Glad you liked it..:)

    jcmartin: Thanks so much for your constructive criticism. That's what I want, and it is a moot point, but yes, I can go overboard with description..:)

    L Diane: Jilly's not going to die..:)

  28. This was DRAMA personified!! Very intense scene that was vividly written. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get to it...but I'm very glad I did! This was an excellent addition to the blogfest and I thank you for taking time to contribute!!

  29. DLH, thank you for finally making it. It was a wonderful blogfest and thank you again for hosting..:)


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