Red Flag Warning


In Oklahoma we are exposed to extreme weather. In the past thirty years we have faced F5 tornadoes, flash floods, hurricane-strength winds of 90 MPR, summer heat that exceeds 115 degrees, and ice storms. But last Sunday night was a first. We faced the fury of a Red Flag warning.  A Red Flag warning represents high winds, drought, and carelessness. 

Around nine Sunday night, a loud, powerful knock  exploded on our front door. Our neighbor shouted, “Your lawn is on fire.”

My husband, Bill,  raced outside without a word. The front door slammed a second time as my grandson joined him.  Bill returned within a few seconds and ran into the bedroom. “Call 911. Our entire lawn is burning.”

With trembling hands,  I dialed.  I attempted to explain our emergency. The dispatcher, picked up on my heightened energy and said, “You have to calm, down.” Not knowing the extent of the fire, I advised the dispatcher to come now. As I hung up the phone, I raced to the backdoor to look out. Seeing flames that covered the backyard, I canceled my exploration, grabbed our Toy Fox Terrier, wrapped him in a blanket, and raced out the front door. Barefoot and in my nightgown, I draped the dog blanket around Mr. Barkleah and myself.

Neighbors lined the front walk. Discussion of how this fire could have started occupied the conversations. As a new neighbor joined the watchers, the stories were repeated. “This can’t be happening. We are not in rural America. Who saw the fire first, what were they doing? Thank God the fire was seen before everything burned.”

My husband and grandson raced with hoses and fought the fire.  Josh, my grandson, as if he were a  veteran fireman, kept the fire from claiming our three giant evergreens and Bill’s week-old car. with a gas can next to the house, and the propane tank in the backyard, the two men faced increasing danger.

Soaked down with water and built with brick, the house was saved. Over three-fourths of the back and front yards were charred black.  Heavy smoke filled the air inside and out. Nerves were short. Fruit trees, rose bushes, and Crepe myrtles may be lost , but neighbors stood together and no one was hurt.

The fire department, working another grassfire, arrived as Bill and Josh turned off their garden hoses. My heroes paced the yard, searching for hot-spots and clues to the origin of the fire.

How did the fire start? It appears a careless smoker tossed a  cigarette next to the fence in our backyard. The wind and drought did the rest. We could have lost our home or our lives.   

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