Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bush Fire

It's that time of the year again, bush fire season. It hasn't rained in almost 3 months and everything in the bush is a matchstick waiting to be stuck. Due to habit or a lack of education about the consequences of a bush fire, several farmers purposely start bush fires. Some of them think that it makes the land look "pretty," some do it just because "that's what we've always done," and others just do it because everybody else is.

It's strange because every time I tell them about how bush fires take nutrients away from the ground (thereby making next years harvest yield less) and how they kill saplings and cause soil erosion, I'm almost always met with a, "Yes I know. It's a bad practice." So I'm not sure if it's a few strange pyromaniacs who don't seem to believe that bush fire consequences exist, or whether farmers just really don't believe it's that big of a deal. Personally I think it's more the latter.

Now with this introduction it's time for me to begin the story...

The other day I was at the school when I noticed this huge black cloud.

I've seen lots of bush fires but I haven't seen one that could cause such a massive smoke cloud. I went out to go and see how big the fire was and where it was. About a 30 minute walk outside of town I find the fire and it is raging. I'm watching it as it swallows up trees. I'm almost tempted to walk closer because I'm naively thinking that if nobody else is paying attention to this fire it must not actually be as bad as it looks. Then a gust of wind comes and the fire jumps 5 feet forward and 10 feet high devouring everything around it. I hightail it out of there.

Many times before I've asked whether this fire was going to become a problem or whether that fire was going to move in toward town. Every time I am met with a no. So naturally I've become accustomed to thinking none of them will ever make it into town. About 2 hours later I come back out to see the fire almost in our backyard. At this point I'm still somehow amazingly unaware of the fact that this fire has traveled 2 miles in the direction of my village and that it probably will not just suddenly stop and burn out by Yapalsi's backyard.

I'm taking still more photo's and videos commenting about the fire and how close it is to my house (the house on the edge of town and therefore first in the path of the fire) literally never really thinking that if this fire continues it is going to start all of our grass huts into one big bonfire.

Luckily others are not as unaware and I start seeing people gathering at the edge of my town with sticks and machettes cutting down growth by the village. It is at this point that I realize this is actually an immediate problem.

The village have a very specific sound they make to alert others of a fire. Make this sound and every person who hears it will do two things; grab a bucket of water and run in the direction of the sound, and recreate the sound to pass it along to those who didn't hear. Within minutes you'll have the entire town force running over with water. This was a really interesting thing to witness and the coolest fire service I've ever seen.

For the next 20 minutes my village and I throw buckets of water at this bush fire. The women carrying the water the men either beating the fire out or spraying it with their farming equipment. It's a really tense 20 minutes but we get the fire put out.

Then about 30 minutes later I hear the fire alert, "waaa-yee... waa-yee" and before I know it I'm running out with a bucket of water. The fire we put out earlier has restarted! So again we pour water everywhere. This time we take extra care to douse everything that was once on fire. And once more the fire is back under control.

How did the fire start to begin with? A farmer started it to try to create a fire belt around his yam farm. On this particular day though, the wind was particularly strong and the farmer didn't clear the area before starting the fire. The wind just picked it up and ran with it. The farmer lost his entire yam farm to a fire of which he created. You might think it's karma but I know first hand that this kind of thing happens all the time. My house father lost half of his cow pea farm from doing the exact same thing 1 week earlier, only on this day the winds weren't as bad so the fire didn't make it very far.

My house made it out okay though and the village made it out okay too. Talk about memorable moments.
The fire behind my house
The Village deciding they would create a fire belt around Yapalsi to prevent further scares.
Also, bush rat is back in season. Can you guys believe it's been over a year since I've come to Yapalsi!

1 comment:

  1. That's crazy dude! At least they know how to handle it and no one was hurt. Def. some pyromancers living in the area! lol.