Last night, either by some mechanical problem with their vehicle, or through mischief, someone set a chain of fires along a stretch of highway near town. I was on duty, and was called to assist. When I arrived, the flames were 12 to 15 feet high, and running south with the 26 mph wind (and 25% humidity) at about the speed of a child running, or a man jogging. By this point, my sergeant was already driving a brush truck across the prairie while its lone fireman fought the fire from the rear deck. I looked at traffic, decided that directing traffic (on the north side of the fire) was pointless, and hurried west of the fire to flank it and get south of it. There were houses a mile south of there.
As I moved west on the highway, I observed several smaller fires that were smoldering in the south ditch, luckily stopped by the recently plowed fields just across the ditch. I grew angry.
I got to the south side of the fire, and started notifying homeowners. My spiel went like this:"Howdy, I'm Matt G with the Podunk Police Department. There's a fast-moving, growing wildfire north of here, and it's coming this way fast. Pack up what's important to you, right now. No furniture. Get ready to go. I recommend that you leave immediately, but if you stay, please leave when you see the flames. Please know that our fire departments are doing everything that they can to protect your house, and more fire personnel are en route to do just that."
Then I would move to the next house.
What mildly impressed me was that no one argued. They got right to it. At one point, I parked my car in the driveway of one family, and after I spoke with the ~50 year old man there, I moved to the three houses next door on foot. After having warned those people, I walked back to my car, and saw that first man fast-walking with two apparently heavy suitcases to his pickup. He gave me a quick nod before tossing them into the bed and quickly going back to the house. I could hear a woman and a child speaking to each other through the screen door. "Good man," I said. I went on to other houses.
We got a few dozen rural houses notified before the sixth or seventh alarm seemed to turn the tide. They got the fire line slowed, and started mop-up a few hours later. To the best of my knowledge, no habitations were burned, and only minor sheds and such went up, along with fences and a lot of dry vegetation. (You recall that we're in something of drought, right? Worst one in more than half a century?)
So last night, I was touched when I saw that my friend Don Gwinn
[I] realized something today that's kind of trite, but it hit me hard: I don't have any problems I can't solve. I'm rich. I may acquire new problems I can't solve tomorrow--an aneurysm could burst in my head tonight--but I have no debts I don't have a plan to pay off early, no work I can't do, no loved ones I can't connect with.
Which is not to say I have no debts, or that there's nothing I'd like to have and don't, or would like to do and can't right now, or that all my relationships with my loved ones are perfect, or that my work is easy or even always makes sense. But today I have the sense that I have way to handle all of it, even the stuff that's going to be hard, painful or boring while I'm doing it.
What's important to you? What would you take if you had 15 minutes?
Are your problems really so insurmountable?
Labels: Adulthood, contingency planning, day at the office, pragmatism, responsibility