Monday, 1 July 2013

Silent flames and smoke - The people are ok

I am shocked by how there was no sound as the house on the corner went up in flames. I saw the plumes of white smoke and little tiny firework sounds. Even when the fire engines arrived they didn't have their sirens on. The head fireman must have been using a loud hailer to give instructions, but that was muted somehow. The engines had their motors running, but again this was just a low noise. The flames themselves went right up from the whole roof. They were not the yellow of a candle flame, but the orange, big colour of sheets of flame.

The people were ok. That was the 2nd piece of information each time we exchanged the news, first we'd explain which house it was that was on fire, then ask "What about the people?"

Without a fire brigade it would have spread from house to house downwind. There were lumps of thatch flying over the other houses, carried by the wind. There was a Great Fire in this village in Charles II's time, so our village has form.

It is totally beyond my understanding or imagination to take in the concept of being without a home, or rather with a burnt out one. It is shocking to see how an event deeply affects one household, but the rest of us are left with intact ones. How unequal can life be? I suppose other sudden events strike less visibly, so the differences between our households are less visible, so less known about.

Even now there is a smoky smell near the house, but it is simply the smell of an everyday bonfire. It doesn't smell alarming, not plasticky or frightening. I find that very disturbing. I remember that there was a terrible smell in the Victoria Line platforms at King's Cross underground station in London after that escalator fire all those years ago. It seemed right that it was a different smell, thinking back. It matched the terrible events there.

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