Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bad Memories in the Garden

Saturday, November 5th, 2005 was a bad day in my garden. 
Nov 5th is Guy Fawkes day in New Zealand which is when most people go mad with fire works. It happened to be a Saturday and I’d decided to have a few friends over for a BBQ. Back then my back yard was still in it's original state with no gardens or BBQ properly built yet, there were no lovely steps or paths to walk up, so it was a pretty rough setup, although the bridge had been built by this time. It was just a grassy bank that levelled out at the top which is where we did the BBQ.

Because the garden is surrounded by bush, I made a point of asking our guests to refrain from bringing any fireworks – everything was pretty dry. There were a few families including a number of children who were running around all over the property. As it happened, the neighbors kids who were around the same age (early teens) started showing off and were letting off fireworks on their property. Then one of the neighbors kids appeared with a tennis racquet and lobbed a large firework over some trees and into the trees next to us causing the whole bush on a steep bank to erupt into flames, including a huge pine tree that was towering above us. Within seconds the flames were leaping several metres into the air and making a terrific roaring sound.

Most of my guests stood there stunned while I was thrown into a panic. I was terribly concerned that it would quickly spread and set the whole area on fire endangering the houses. I sprinted to the house and called the fire service, then grabbed as many buckets as I could find and started directing our youngsters to fill them up from a large stormwater tank in the bottom of the gully and ferry them to the base of the fire which was over the brow of the hill.
We managed to get the fire mostly under control by the time the fire engine arrived. But the pine tree was still on fire above us and there was no way we could throw a bucket of water that high.

So within a reasonably short time the fire crew had their hoses on it and managed to put the fire out. Everyone was a bit shaken and I was high on adrenalin. I was hugely impressed with one of the boys (about 14) who was quite heroic in his efforts to help me. It was all rather exciting for the youngsters who got more than they bargained for that night despite being asked to leave their fireworks at home.

While in the process of putting all their hoses away, one of our boys mentioned to one of the firemen how the fire had started. Next thing we know the police turned up to investigate (as far as I know no charges were laid). By this time night was falling...

In the mean time those in charge of our BBQ (which I'd completely forgotten about) had finished cooking all kinds of sausages and what-not and were taking the food back over to the house ready to serve.

One of the guests 'Sharon' was making her way down the bank to the bridge carrying a dish full of cooked sausages, when she slipped down the bank (the grass was still wet from the fire hoses which took the same route). She went skidding down the bank on her bottom, the sausages and dish went bouncing down the bank in all directions. She came to an abrupt stop landing awkwardly on one of her ankles. When we tried to help her up we could see she was in pain and she couldn't put any weight on it. 

One of our boys (the informant) told the fire crew what had happened. One of them came to see if he could help – he appeared to be trained in first aid. He suspected a broken bone, so then he called an ambulance. Sharon ended up on crutches for several weeks after that. 

The neighbours in the surrounding area must certainly have been wondering what was going on at our place that night with all the emergency services turning up one after the other.
Needless to say, I've decided never again to have a BBQ on Guy Fawkes night.

Sharon's little accident was a huge motivator for me to install the steps and landscaping to make the back part of our garden safer, so at least something good eventually came out of it.


  1. Wow what an action packed evening. Very lucky it didn't get too ut of control & burn any houses. Glad all turned out safely. Regarding the sausages. Was the 10 second rule extended to allow for sausage recovery???

  2. I can't remember if we went 'round gathering them up. It would have been more than 10 seconds if we did. The whole night was a bit of a disaster. Sharon and her husband spent the night down at the emergency dept. I don't think they even got to eat anything.

    I always get a bit 'edgy' around this time of year.

    BTW: That night my wife was out of town for her work. When she got back the next day I had some explaining to do.

  3. Ha Reminds me of Desi in "I Love Lucy"

    "Lucy you got some 'splaining to do!!!"