Texas is burning up. A record-breaking stretch of 100+ degree days with very little rain makes good kindling for fire. Certainly the yard at my house, with no sprinkling system to use in the dead of night when no one’s looking, is dry and crackly. There have been fires on and off in Texas this summer, but when the fires mentioned are in towns within 10-20 minutes driving distance, I start to get nervous.
It’s not like I haven’t lived in fire zones before. Nine years in southern California was a lesson not only in earthquakes but also fires. I just didn’t expect to go through this again in Austin, particularly this summer. Surely, I’ve used up my fire quota already; it would be cruel fate to experience another. I’ve been checking local TV, radio, and internet news regularly, which helps, but every time I hear sirens, I check again and look out the window only to see nothing. Nevertheless, I’ve got a plan in place to evacuate my dogs and myself if necessary. So far, it isn’t, but I’m not taking any chances.
I don’t normally freak out about fire. Then again, I’ve never gone through one before, or at least experienced all the consequences of one as I have since the fire at my house in May. I have some memories of fire as a child. Back then, people used to burn leaves regularly; it was one of the sights and smells of autumn. As a small child in Pennsylvania, I remember seeing the empty lot nearby in flames one night. All the neighbors were outside watching as the firefighters were putting it out. I wasn’t afraid then. I thought it looked fascinating against the dark sky. That’s the perspective of a four-year-old.
My only other experiences of fire come from fireplaces or bonfires. At camp, this was almost the best part of the day, sitting around the campfire at night, singing songs and telling stories. My own children got very little of this when they were at camp because it was here in Texas and there were usually fire bans. A shame really. Despite living their whole lives in California and Texas, the kids have enjoyed a few fires in the fireplace during the cooler months. Personally, I love a cozy evening by the fire and count the days until the weather is finally cool enough to justify lighting up my fireplace.
When house hunting, a fireplace is high on my wish list. Unfortunately, a lot of the older houses I look at don’t have them. I’ve seen enough design shows, though, to know you can get a gas one installed in a house without a chimney. Of course, that means I need to get over my recently-acquired paranoia about gas. Is it worth it? For the two or three cool months we get? I’m not sure. I like candles, too, and have often lit them for the added aura they give. I think there’s something primitive about fire that we’re drawn to despite our modern lives. After all, many religious and cultural rituals include fire and lighting candles. I know that before the fire, I loved snuggling up with a good book, a pot of tea, and a nice fire going. I suspect that when I get through this part of my life and settle down, I’m going to enjoy fire again. But I will have plenty of fire extinguishers nearby.