Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fire in Winter Wonderland

A woman in her sixties lost her life when a caravan caught on fire last night. Her husband is in hospital. According to police they were probably woken up by the fire alarm, but only the husband made it out.

"At this time, the cause of the fire is unknown. There is little left of the caravan" says a spokesperson for the police. Police will spend the day investigating the scene.

Sunday morning, The National Criminal Investigation Service (KRIPOS) were called in to assist in finding the cause of the fire.

I'm home for Easter, home in this small town in the middle of nowhere, where nothing ever happens. Then at 4:22am Saturday morning, the fire alarm went off. My father being a volunteer fire fighter, got up and got dressed. When the message came through it was at the camping site not far from our house my mother looked out through the kitchen window and saw the flames rising hight into the air.

A caravan was on fire, along with the wooden 'cabin' attached to it. A man was outside when the fire truck pulled up, the fire station being right next door to the caravan park, it didn't take many minutes. There wasn't much to do, it burned fast and furiously while they tried to protect all the caravans close by.

Then they realized there was a woman inside. She'd been right behind her husband as he exited, but she never made it out. Neighbours had to hold him back as he wanted to go back inside, while two of them tried to crawl along the ground, getting away from the smoke. Trying to get inside the caravan, they realized they'd never make it - the flames were too hot. The woman hopefully (and most likely) passed out before the flames got to her.

There was nothing they could do. The neighbours watched while the fire fighters tried to get the fire under control. My dad told me they did what the could, but there wasn't much to do. When they managed to put out the fire and were putting their hoses away, it was so cold the water froze a foot inside the hose in just a couple minutes.

When the smoke cleared and extinguishing work was over, there wasn't much left. They could see the woman among the debris, although being quite unable to see it was a person.

I don't know what the husband saw, how long he was there before they sent him off to the hospital, but imagine having gotten out of a burning construction, realizing there's someone you love left inside. Then watching it burn and know they're dying. Death itself can at times be an ambiguous construct - I don't think of my grandparents of dead, simply because I never saw them that often when they were alive. I haven't seen them, or anyone else, dead - just the coffins being decorated with flowers, then lowered into the ground.

But seeing someone you love as a charred lump, lying in the spot you last saw them, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was a living, breathing person only an hour ago. Seeing a friend reduced to charred bones and burnt flesh. Unrecognizable as themselves, even as a human being. I can only speak for myself, and my usual way of dealing with grief is making rather morbid jokes, but something like that would probably be enough to push me right over the edge, if only for a while, no matter how far from it I usually think I am.

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