On September 10th, we were all enjoying a lovely Sunday afternoon. I was outside enjoying catching scents on a boisterous breeze while I lay on guard in the driveway. Kay and the Scribe were downstairs watching Eric Lamaze as he and his horse jumped over obstacles at a place called Spruce Meadows.
Eric was halfway through the course when something incredibly scary happened. There was a crack, and I saw one of the tall Balsam Firs along the little gravel path teeter in a gust, and fall, fall, then hang, while the powerlines that run past the house, past my palace and on to Al and Joanne’s house lit up and made the most horrible sounds: TZT TZZZZZT TZZZZZZZT. There was an explosion (I was already running for the house to warn my two-leggers of DANGER), and then more of the TZZZT sounds.
I don’t mind telling you I was too scared to bark. I curled up in the corner of the house beside the door to keep anyone from coming out, and I watched, and I listened as the explosions and TZZTs continued.
Almost immediately I got to the door, I could hear movement in the house: Elizabeth racing upstairs to see what was exploding. She thought the problem was in the house, something she could stop. But she couldn’t find anything.
Elizabeth then looked out the Dining Room window and saw the smoke, then the tree hanging on the hydro lines over the gravel path. She ran to the door to get me inside, and I willingly came in. I’d rather be with my beloved two-leggers in a dangerous situation. Then she ran to the old phone in the kitchen, the one that doesn’t rely on electricity to operate. She dialed 911. I could tell she was just as scared as I was.
“Fire!” she cried when someone answered at the other end.
And then it got scarier yet.
As she was talking to the emergency people, the tree finally broke the first of three lines. I could hear the explosion on the phone from where I was standing, and Elizabeth yelped. It must have hurt her ears a lot. “The line has just come down,” she yelled to the lady on the phone.
The lady was trying to find out where we lived. Elizabeth started again when the second line came down, and another explosion came through the phone. The connection held, though, and she continued after another yelp, and the third line came down. Elizabeth cried out again both in pain and fear, because now she could see more smoke.
She told the emergency lady that a fire was starting, that the bush was extremely dry (we hadn’t had rain for some time) and that the winds were very strong. “There are people living just a few hundred yards up the hill, and this fire is going to move fast,” she said. “Please, get the fire service here fast!” She had to tell the lady all this because the phone calls are answered nearly a thousand miles from here, and people there have no clue about our situation.
The lady told her to call again if she saw flames or if anything changed.
I hoped the wind didn’t change. It was blowing away from the house. If it changed, we’d have nowhere to go, and the fire would reach us very quickly over fifty feet of tinder dry forest. The live, sparking wires were across the road and might blow nearer the car, too. I didn’t think we could get Kay down to the river fast enough, and it was too cold for her anyway.
Elizabeth ran down to her room for a better look and saw eight foot flames licking up the hill. Oh, no, she thought. This is going to be bad. She ran back to the phone and called 911 again. They assured her that the trucks were on their way and would be there soon.
Kay got upstairs and wondered what had happened that the power had gone off. Elizabeth explained and I went to the livingroom with Kay.
Figuring there was nothing left that she could do, Elizabeth grabbed her camera and went outside. By then the flames had eaten anything close enough to show from the house, so we don’t have anything dramatic to show you. The firetruck arrived within ten minutes of her first call. I stayed inside, but Elizabeth was able to take enough pictures to give us a photo documentary:
By the time Elizabeth got outside, mostly just smoke was visible from anywhere safe to shoot.
But where there’s smoke, there’s usually still some fire.
Thank goodness the fire fighters and their trucks arrived quickly!
They get the area affected watered down, but there’s still some smouldering going on… Where do they go from here?
It’s a good question. The lines are still live and sparking, and they aren’t sure where the electricity is going. They need to wait for the Hydro men to come and call to have the power cut, otherwise the firemen might be electrocuted.
You can see the downed lines in the following photos, from the pole close to Al and Joanne’s house, past my Boreal Palace, and dangling behind the parked Growly Beast. And there they are in the last photo, hanging from the pole that holds our transformer.
Then the fire trucks left. We didn’t know what was going on.
It turned out they were just backing out of our little gravel path so that the hydro truck and the linesmen could get in and down to work.
Their first order of business once they had the power turned off on the main line, was to get the tree down. The firemen helped cut it into smaller bits and to get it cleared off the gravel path.
The linesmen ground the wires so no one gets any nasty surprises while working on the high voltage lines.
Now that it is safe to work the hoses again, a little conference ensues…
The hoses are moved to a better spot,
And the fire fighters go back to work.
They report back to the boss fireman,
And then, our heroes of the day decide that their work here is done. It took an hour and a half to get the fire completely out.
Then the labourious job of splicing the wires, winching them back up, doing the double checking and fine tuning and final tightening begins. Here’s a little gallery of the process – just click the first photo and then you can flip through them quickly.
Getting the cherry picker into position.
Tightening the spliced line.
Working on the third line.
Checking the job.
Getting the ropes down.
The finished job. We were without hydro for just two hours.
It wasn’t just us that were affected by this tree falling. Several thousand people in the area west of us went without hydro for the time all this was going on, too. Kay and Elizabeth never did find out whether Eric Lamaze finished his competition or how he fared.
We went up later to check on things as the boss fireman asked Elizabeth to do. He wanted to make sure that there were no hot spots that might flare up again after they were gone.
We took a good look at the remains of the tree that had fallen on the lines.
The view from the Little Gravel Path going up our hill has changed.
After a closer look, we could see there was nothing much left to burn. Kay wonders if all those burnt tree roots will mean the end of many more trees soon.
That’s enough for this post. But the story isn’t over yet…