January 20, 2005

Burning in this cold

Last night as I was finishing posting An Enlightening Read, the tones sounded on my scanner for a structure fire. I was about to head downstairs for a hurried meal with the just-arrived wife before rushing off to a girls basketball game.

A sheriff's deputy arrived almost immediately and reported a fully-involved house trailer fire. After weeks of spring-like weather, then days without reaching 32 degrees and temps sinking into the single-digits, I've been poised for more fires.

Turns out this was the fifth fire for the department since Monday. Usually they have average one fire per month that causes damage to a building.

Trailer fires usually get knocked down quickly, so I was just going to let it go when the deputy reported a possible entrapment. That, unfortunately, made it more news-worthy, so I scarfed down three or four bites of dinner and grabbed my camera gear.

I reached the scene in a few minutes and grabbed my Nikon, with its new 10-70mm lens, flash, and a new flash bracket to get the flash higher off the camera. It looked as if this was going to be another fire providing mediocre night-time photos, but I was alert enough to get a few shots with a flare-up of flame at one end of the trailer. Considering (a) the distance I traveled (b) the kind of structure that was burning and (c) the proximity of the fire to the fire department, it's amazing that I got any flame photos.

Thankfully, the occupant escaped before emergency workers arrived. In the department's five fires this week, nobody has been injured--almost miraculously. Turns out four of the five fires can be attributed to the cold weather. There was a malfunctioning kerosene heater, a cracked chimney that allowed fire to spread, and a wood stove that caught something on fire. Last night's was the result of a heater that was under the trailer to thaw frozen pipes.

So I talked to the chief more in-depth today and got the go-ahead from my editor to work up a cold-weather fire-safety article for our next issue. The keys for a successful story pitch were (a) good photos (b) being able to tie the spate of fires together to give the article some structure.

[BTW, the photo that is second from the left will probably run in the paper, so enjoy the sneak preview.]

Posted by JRC at January 20, 2005 04:43 PM | TrackBack