I was minding my own business, freeing up a little space on my SSD while waiting for a Skype conference to start, when I heard a loud pop. It sounded like it was coming from my back yard, or maybe from the neighbors’ yard, but I didn’t think much of it: people are always setting off firecrackers right before Independence Day.
A few minutes later, the doorbell rang. I untangled myself from my laptop and clumped irritably downstairs, still wearing my reading glasses. When I opened my door and looked out, I saw the neighbors from across the street running back and forth.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
“Your house is on fire!”
“My house is on fire?”
Actually, it was the yard that was on fire–the side yard that didn’t stay properly green even before I cut back watering in accordance with California’s drought measures.
I hastened clumsily inside to bring the hose around through the garage, remembering to put the sprinklers on before I started unwrapping the hose. By the time I got outside with the hose, the fire appeared to be out, but I hosed it down just in case.
Then I looked up and saw that the grass by the side of the road across the street was also blackened.
About then, the fire department arrived. Four firefighters climbed out and started raking over the blackened area across the street. One detached himself to check on our yard and ran the hose some more, then pointed out the marks on the asphalt where the firecracker had actually gone off. (I’d been unable to find any incriminating evidence actually on my late lawn.)
The firefighters interviewed the assorted neighbors who’d been helping to put out the flames. Unfortunately, none of them saw who set off the firecracker, but if they hadn’t been outside at the right time, I wouldn’t have known the yard was burning until the fire reached the house–and the part of the lawn that burned is right by the gas meter.
Playing with fireworks is dangerous in any circumstances. Playing with fireworks during a severe drought is insanity, especially at a time when the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District has had to close stations due to lack of funding. I live less than 10 minutes from the fire station, but in that time, if not for the quick actions of my neighbors, both my house and the vineyard across the street would have been endangered. I hate to think how busy the poor firefighters are going to be this weekend.
I think it really is time to take the grass out of the side yard and replace it with gravel and a few drought-tolerant plants.