Report from the fire in Oak Hill (Austin, TX)

By guest blogger Chris Birchard

2011 Capitol 10K

Hey, we’re all alright. I’m sorry for dramatizing it like I did. But I love that you are finally getting some response for your efforts. But I’m still not over yesterday, yet.


Sunday, 4/17/2011, (Scenic Brook, (South) Austin, Tx.)
  Esmeralda  got home early, that was a thrill, it meant I had some free time…
   Downstairs, picture-framing project. The tiniest can of polyeurethane that money can buy. She is “Poly”, the final step towards perfection.
 Applying poly, I start to hear many sirens and think what could it be to take such measures? Suddenly, first one siren and then twenty?
 Then an ash fell in my poly and I looked at my shirt, wondering, where did this come from? The sky then subtly changed tones-blue to orange. Then the smell. Weird, like cedar burning.
   Brush in hand, I took a walk to the top of the hill and found a group of people watching smoke and flames rise from a few blocks off as the strong wind blew the smoke directly into our faces. It reminded me  of Herb’s brush fires. The thickening of smoke as you approached the flames, the fun was just getting started, for the gusting wind would feed the games.
    The sirens, of course, wailed on and on.
   Everyone’s emergency character was revealed, as we watched that fire develop and discussed our options. The wind “ripping” towards us  and us only, it seemed, only directly at us and our homes, too. Flames would reach out, we’d discuss. The firemen, invisible, would gain three yards only to relinquish two yards.
   In other words, someone would say they’ve got it but the angry brown cloud would refoster itself, suddenly, in a brand new place.
People started to pack their, “most valuables”, and leave. (I gathered cash, change, and precious photos, totally forgetting my 1500.00 jackhammer and other sacred tools.)(I drove around as the “picture frame man”,that day, I guess.)
I met an actual teacher that day, on that hill, as he was,”wishing for a Northerner”, and it was clear that I had a new friend, as the wind was gusting hard from the South.
   We were the last two to speculate about our prospects with this situation at this location, although the “corner-man”, the dude that lives on the corner, the first to start moistening his lawn with a feeble gardening hose (soon, we were all doing it, by then the smoke was thick), so I ran back down to Jude and Sheri, our neighbors and friends, showing up for what would be my last “report” about the “front”.
   But it never did get to us, they stopped it, the firefighters did.
   But that was just the beginning of that day for me, in a way.

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