Warning: graphic intensive!
Well, Kikue wen come da closest to wat wen happen on Tuesday morning. Okay, I’ll try not to talk pidgin, but when I get excited, kinda hard not to. It just happens.
Here’s a big hint as to what happened:
Yeah. Those are firemen. INSIDE my hale. Three of them. Very nice firemen, but firemen nonetheless.
Three of them. Yes indeedy. In front of our woodstove.
Here’s the reason why they were there:
Julie and her ʻohana were in Hawaiʻi. And as she does for me, I was taking care of her mail, their dog, and their cats. I’d go to their house twice a day, and by the time I’d get back home again it’d be about an hour.
On Tuesday, Nolemana had left early, and when I got home from Julie dems I notice a whole heck of a lot of smoke coming out of our chimney. We hadn’t had a fire in the woodstove for two days, and let me tell you, I got one bambucha adrenaline surge. I floored my van up our steep driveway, leaving Kukui, who’d gone with me, in the kawila. I raced into the house and checked the woodstove. Nothing. It was cool, no fire anywhere. But I immediately called 911, thinking there was a chimney fire. The dispatcher asked if there was smoke in the hale. Nope. Were there flames? Nope. She said that she’d already sent out the message and the fire department was on its way.
In the meantime, I got ʻUkulele (it took awhile because she didn’t want to come) into Kukui’s dog kennel. Oh the injustice for a pōpoki to have to be put into a dog kennel! Then I took my manu, Uakea, into the kitchen with ʻUkulele in case I had to get them out in a hurry. I grabbed some important papers and put them in my car.
I have years and years of journals, and I knew there was no way that I could save them all. I also knew that I couldn’t save all the photos. But the choice was, my animals or the journals and photos. And there was no choice; it had to be the living creatures entrusted to my care.
Just then, I heard the siren of the fire truck. They’d gotten here in less than ten minutes, though it seemed like a lot longer. And once they were here, I felt oh, so much better. I met them out in the driveway and told them what was going on.
Three of them went up on the roof. Another went into the attic. Another went downstairs. And these three guys began to pull the woodstove out so that they could see into the chimney. The fireman in charge began asking me a lot of questions about things, like when had we had the chimney cleaned (just last year; we’re really good about that) and when our furnace had last been serviced (ditto).
We have three fireplaces in this hale; they’re near each other. Smoke was still pouring out the chimney and the three firemen were still trying to get the woodstove out. Notice that they put down a rubber mat to protect my carpet from their boots! Can you believe it?
By this time, a smaller firetruck had arrived and so had Nolemana.
There’s the big engine in our driveway. It had been a real challenge for them to get up our steep driveway.
Now, I gotta tell you. All the firemen, I guess by now there were around nine of them, were so calm, so professional, and so reassuring, that it helped me to stay calm too. They were incredible, checking everything out.
Smoke was still pouring out the chimney and the firemen were still trying to locate the cause of the smoke.
I am really good in an emergency. Of course pau da emergency, ho da shaking begins! But there I was, taking photos of everything. No can believe! Of course, it helped that there were no flames or smoke anywhere!
Just outside da front door. Kikue, notice all the moss everywhere? It’s just past winter in Oregon, ‘as why. I know how you love to see it.
The guys came down from the roof and said we have four flues but three fireplaces. They wondered if the furnace could be for the other one, and I said it could. And that the furnace had smelled really hot when I’d raced down there.
So we turned off the furnace, and just lidat, da smoke wen stop. Needless to say, we didn’t turn it back on. The head fireman told the three guys they could put the woodstove back. I’m sure they were extremely relieved. They told us to leave the furnace off and call our furnace guy right away, which we assured them we would do.
The firefighters were just finishing up. The one in charge walked around with a carbon monoxide detector; it was buzzing a little, but we were still within normal range. He wanted to make sure I was all right, so he had one of the guys put this little da kine on my finger to test my CO2 level. Well within normal ranges, but higher than Nolemana’s. Did I say we’re going to have a CO2 alarm da kine installed? You betcha. Wikiwiki! Then they checked my pulse. “It’s high,” he said, “but that’s totally normal under the circumstances.”
The woodstove was back in the fireplace. Everything was all cleaned up, and was time for them to leave. I felt so incredibly grateful to these brave men who came out, who risk their lives every single day to save people like us. When they were on their way to our hale, they really didn’t know what they were going to find; they had an idea it could be a chimney fire, but couldn’t be totally sure till they got here. It could have been oh, so much worse. I had wai maka as I thanked them for getting out here so fast, for being so calm and reassuring, and for doing everything they could to keep us safe.
I asked the firemen if they knew Mike Snodgrass, the co-owner of Hawaiian Beanz Coffee Shop in Damascus. He’s a Lieutenant with the fire department in Gresham; they’d heard of him and knew the coffee shop, so that was a fun connection.
Then I went back outside and started snapping photos again.
Close up, a fire engine is really, really big!
On the front of this engine it says, “Never Forget 9-11-01”. I never do.
Some of them were now out at the trucks; they had determined that the smaller one wasn’t needed, so the guys who came in that truck were going to take off. Everyone, most of all me, was so relieved that there hadn’t been a real fire. There were a lot of smiles outside. Including mines.
However, Nolemana had come home in a hurry (he’d called in the middle of everything and I told him to get home wikiwiki), so he’d parked behind the smaller truck. See his kawila back there?
So the firemen directed his kawila around the smaller fire truck.
It was a tight fit, but he made it.
All pau, you think? Nope! Photos pau? Nope. Hakum, you ask? Well, because… our driveway is one-tenth of a mile long. With an 18% grade. Around a very steep curve. Several weeks ago I had to have my kawila towed to our repair shop because the alternator had died. The tow truck driver came up just fine. But he had a flatbed truck and couldn’t turn around up here. So he had to back alla way down, then back alla way up, then tow my kawila away.
So for the firemen, the next part of the advencha was just beginning. Now they had to get that bambucha fire engine back down the driveway!
The small one had backed down with no trouble at all. But the big one would be more of a challenge. One fireman walked behind it, and two walked down in front to help guide the driver back down. The curve would be the trickiest part.
I’m so da kine that I had tears running down my cheeks as they left. My gratitude was so great…I just couldn’t help it.
The fire engine began to disappear down the curve. One fireman was now on one side and one on the other to watch where the tires were going.
Down, down, down…
It doesn’t look quite so big now, does it?
This was the trickiest part of the whole way down…the wicked curve on an 18% grade. On a driveway barely wide enough for a truck of that size. Backwards.
Little by little, they were making it! This was my last photo of the truck from the driveway as it disappeared downhill.
Below me, I saw the tree branches that had toppled during our last windstorm that came and went within only fifteen minutes. The limbs took out several rhododendrons and part of our fence.
I tried to see if the fire engine had made it past the curve. Not yet.
But I did see a helicopter flying overhead.
I moved out to the deck in front of our house to get a better view. And there was the fire engine! It was making it!
I could see it through the just beginning to bloom sakura trees.
The firemen who were walking watched carefully to make sure the fire truck stayed on the asphalt and didn’t go into the mud.
Slowly, slowly, the driver inched the truck down and backwards.
The sheep, llama, and guardian doggie were totally unconcerned.
Not so the firemen. It really was a tricky deal getting down our driveway.
And uh-oh. There’s yet another curve to maneuver around. At least it’s flat here. But if they miss the curve, they will go into a big ditch. A couple of the firemen had suggested we install a four-lane road coming up to the house. I think even a two-lane one would have helped.
Ricky and Poem didn’t care about the excitement either.
Everyone’s taking a nap but Rayado, who just kept munching away.
Guiding the fire truck around the curve.
Again, it made it. Now it’s on the gravel road at the bottom of the pasture. But it’s not over yet. Wat? U gotta be keeding me, yeah? Nope. Cuz she, now dey gotta get turned around so dey can go out front-wise. Still get a turnaround to go!
See da rubbish cans? Da truck gotta back up ova dea, den turn around. Without going into da small kine ditch on da side of da road.
Boring Fire and Rescue. Life is anything but boring around hea!
With guidance from da outsai guy, da drivah slowly backs up litto by litto.
“C’mon, litto bit moa, keep on coming…” Oops. Da fireman no stay talking pidgin.
No bang da fence. No go into da ditch. Stop!
All pau. The fire engine is ready to go straight down our road. The firemen climb back into the fire truck.
The fireman begins to hemo his equipment. Until they actually got here, I didn’t know how much weight these guys carry on their bodies when they’re all prepared to fight a fire.
This fireman is the last one in.
He decides to take off his heavy jacket first.
He climbs in and closes the door.
And off they go.
Down our road in front of the sakura tree.
They turn onto the paved road…
…and are off down the road, back to the fire station…
…while I just stood there and wept. The emergency was pau, and I was coming out of emergency mode and back into the feelings. Even now I get wai maka writing about these brave men.
Nolemana called our furnace guy, who came out within the hour. He said that the reason for all the smoke was because we’d run out of oil and the furnace was working too hard, and trying to burn what little fuel it had. We got more oil the next day.
On Wednesday, I took photos of our driveway to show what an awesome job the firemen did getting down our driveway.
This is the steep curve. Considering how little room they had, I was really impressed.
Small kine off the road here, but who cares!
Just below the curve. Look how well they stayed on the asphalt!
The next day, I took photos of what the driveway looks like going up.
Heading up towards the curve:
And there it is. You can see how expertly the driver and his walking guides got down the tricky driveway.
Mahalo ke Akua that I came home when I did and noticed the smoke. It could have been much, much, worse. Mahalo to the brave firemen who rushed out here, not knowing if they would find a full-blown fire in progress. Mahalo for their professionalism, calmness, and concern for me and our home. It was a major scary time for me.
This weekend I will be baking a huge batch of cookies to take down to these men. They were here so many times when Nolemana’s papa-san had medical emergencies, and they were at my neighbor’s just last week when she had a chimney fire. Many of them are volunteers. Compared to what they do, a big batch of cookies seems kinda manini kine, but they will be a token of incredible gratitude to all of them.