Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fuego! means "Fire!"

There has been no significant rain since the 24th of December. Everything is very dry and has the potential to really burn like crazy. Three days ago the wind was blowing at least 25 mph and gusting higher. I went with two art buddies to the cliff that marks the western end of the city of Barichara to draw/paint the mountains.
I really love this picture of my friend making a decision
about which direction to face to do a painting.
My other artist friend is getting settled near the edge of the
cliff. I could not get that close and be comfortable.
We worked on our various art projects until the sun set over the mountains and as we were headed back up to the roadway, I saw a fire and yelled in my best Spanish, "Fuego!"

I am not sure if my friends were unable to hear me, or if they were unable to understand my Spanish, or exactly what the problem was.  I tried yelling louder, but they kept giving me quizzical looks and mouthing what looked like "Que?" (What?) from further down the path.

The fire was only five minutes into the burn when I took
this shot. You can see by the way it is spreading that the
wind is very strong, pushing it along toward the trees.
Finally I just shouted as loud as I could, "FIRE!" and they came rushing up the path. By then the flames were jumping up into the trees and all the plastic bags were exploding with whatever was inside them. Now it was big enough that people along the roadway were stopping to ask questions and to try and offer some help. But there was no water source nearby and no other source to extinguish what was now growing into a huge fire.

Fortunately we had not parked my car near the trash as I have done in the past. Although it was clear it was a set fire, it is hard to say if whoever set it would have done so with a car nearby. Good thing I didn't have to find out! My friends were talking on their cells to various people who might assist, including the police. Other people had called the police as well. I decided to walk back and get the car as it was getting darker every minute and I would have to walk on a narrow dark road without much protection (guard rails, etc.).

There was little point for me to hang around anyhow because if anyone asked me a question, I would have been struggling to answer it in Spanish. (I am making progress, but my new word this week is 'caracol' which means 'snail.')

By the time I returned, the fire looked like this - only about 20 minutes had elapsed. One of Colombia's big issues is that people have cut down too many trees to build and to make fires to cook over. As a result, there are many many places where the land has literally fallen away from lack of tree cover. Having a fire anywhere obviously is terribly counter-productive.
Precious trees are being consumed by the fire at this point.
So there is a real need for education of the folks about managing the trash, not setting fires to burn it, using some of the food waste for compost, etc. And it seems the village could use a volunteer fire fighting force as well. I don't know how I can be an agent for change, but I continue to work on my language skills and perhaps something will come clear in time.

I chose to take the reflection of the colors of the setting sun on the clouds
behind me instead of the direct rays of the sun going down behind the
mountains. That was pretty too, but the colors were better here.
Before I sign off, I can at least show another beautiful Colombian sunset, taken before all the excitement of the fire. 

1 comment:

  1. Nasty fire! but wonderful photos as always.
    Sending you lots of good wishes x