Monday, 7 August 2017
Yesterday we had our first close and dangerous fire experience. I noticed in the afternoon there was small fire below and to the side of us. Gradually the smoke got darker, a sure sign of trouble, and ash started drifting around us. We took down our terrace umbrella and sunshades in case sparks ignited them and dampened down our hedges and tree for the same reason. It got worse, Mr FF suggested we pack bags in case we needed to leave, I threw in pants, a change of clothes and my toothbrush. Strangely I didn't immediately think of my jewellery or my knitting, I took the former but not the latter. Mr FF was a bit concerned our only road out might be impassable and also worried for Mario so he took a walk out. By now the helicopter was dropping water, albeit it only one and obviously having to travel some way for water. Marios house had been completely surrounded by fire but saved, he and Lina were in shock. Mr FF said he'd spotted as he walked back fire coming at our level which he thought he could stop, he took a large plastic barrel of water in the car and did a good job of stopped the flames. But above us the fire was raging, huge old trees sending flames high into the air and the noise of cracking and burning dreadful. Around 9 when the helicopter had stopped flying the vigili, the civil protection, came and told us we had to leave as it was too dangerous. I alerted the neighbours lower down who were practically hysterical by now. Stella asked me where they should go. The road out of the village was blocked as the cemetery was still burning. I had no idea where we would go so I gave her a hug and said we were all together, we'd be ok. I checked several times the cats weren't in the house, I knew they'd be safe outside, we closed all the doors windows and shutters in the hope that would curb any flames. Such an awful sensation to leave knowing we could lose everything but strangely nothing seemed that important. The situation didn't improve when our single track road, the one with the drop to the side, was blocked by fire vehicles and four cars had to reserve in the dark with the flames raging around us. We parked in the village and eventually the boys got pizza and water as we hadn't eaten all day, we sat in the square. The vigil said they were on stand by to defend our houses, later that the situation was critical and we must wait, finally around 12.30 that in about 40 minutes we could return home. Some neighbours were too afraid to come back and went to the village hotel, we set off to drive to where our road turns up so we'd see the fire fighters come down and get the all clear. Passing Marios he and some of our neighbours and friends were sitting out, we joined them and Mario served Mr FF a beer and me a prosecco, drinks never tasted so good. Eventually the brave workers came down and said we were able to go back, we thanked them all. Around 1.30 we were home everywhere deep in ash, a terrible smell of smoke and rather worryingly a small fire smouldering not far above us. I got up regularly to check this. About 3.30 the fire brigade were here again applying water. This morning the helicopter returned, there is still smoke and we wait to see if the fire will start again as often happens. I have nothing but admiration for those people who protect us, no property was lost apart from the cemetery which to my mind doesn't count, no one was injured. I always compliment the fire fighters who work with limited resources in impossible terrain, they are brilliant, we are all safe if still a little stressed and exhausted. The olives around is are singed but not totally destroyed, life will go on thank heavens, these resilient country people will just get on with it.