Sunday, April 20, 2008

Putting out Fires

I'm double-posting this here and on facebook. Enjoy.
As I mentioned the other day, we had a fire next door Friday night/Saturday morning. First, a digression. Last week, this happened:
You can tell we're close to the end of the year when people do dumb things like this; if you can't tell what's happening, it's a car parked straight in front of our driveway. My theory is drunkenness--you'd have to be drunk to be so dumb as to leave your car parked where it is obviously blocking a driveway. As someone pointed out, it's a good thing it got towed, because the owner was not likely to return in a better state than when he left.This weekend, our neighbors were having a party. They are sometimes loud, but at least their parties usually end around 2 or 2:30. It does still irritate me, because there are children living across the street and in other near areas, and a once quietish residential section is kind of ruined, but they're not the worst neighbors I've ever had so I deal as best I can, even with them traipsing across our lawn, knocking down our fence, and smoking in our driveway.
Then, about 5:30 am, I woke up to some strange noises. I thought it was someone who lived in my house at first, then figured out it was outside. Given my paranoia for my car, I got up to investigate, and found this scene in the street:

I came out on my front steps and craned around the side of the house to see this:

The excitement, evidently, was ending with firemen hacking off the siding from the neighbors' outbuilding. I didn't wake up to the trucks, the men, or the hoses. It took the axes. Given that I am a light sleeper, that was pretty stupefying, and when the police and head fireman came to talk to me, I told them the must have been pretty sneaky.
"It's a new program, to get involved with the community," said one. "We were in stealth mode."
They were kidding of course, but I complimented the fire department on its quiet work. The head man asked if I'd seen anyone around in that area, and of course I'd seen guys out smoking around 3 (I woke up to that, but not fire trucks), but then all was quiet. Evidently, the idea of arson was being bandied around.The next morning, I went out to survey the damage, as did my neighbors both in my own house and the houses on either side. A very focused line of charred earth under the fence which held our trumpet vine was the most obvious evidence of the fire:

As you can see, any further one way and it probably would have set their house on fire. Any further the other way and our garage would have been touched. The guys mentioned the i-beam cross (a common formation for vine growth), as being a potential dumbass magnet to set on fire, except the fire was mostly away from the cross. One also said the fire department had mentioned gasoline. In any case, we're all a little baffled and hopeful that nothing else weird is going to happen.
The experience did give me the chance to ask the neighbor guys to quit letting their dog poop in our yard, which was positive, and I met a few of my own house-neighbors I didn't yet know (which seems weird, but there are a bunch of different entrances to our house, so we don't have much interaction). I'm also hoping it gives these guys more reason to monitor their parties more closely and take things more seriously. No one got hurt and the damage was minimal, but it's still pretty scary...and I didn't get much sleep.

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