Thursday, January 03, 2008

Shanghied by Shack-Fu

On Monday (a.k.a. New Year's Eve) PigPen and I met up with Cap'n Shack-Fu for lunch. Since The Mav had borrowed my car to go in to work at 5AM, and PigPen was heading straight for work after we ate, I asked Shack if he would mind giving me a ride back home. He said sure, and at about one o'clock, we hopped in B.A.R.T. and left Chick-Fil-A.

It would be almost five hours later before I made it home.

You see, earlier that day, Shack-Fu had gotten word that due to the strong winds and low humidity it was a prime day for fires, so he was eagerly listening to the scanner in B.A.R.T. for news of a conflagration. No sooner had he pointed B.A.R.T. towards my place then a call came over the radio saying there was a huge grass-fire in the nearby town of Justin, and that assistance was needed. It was like a switch had been thrown in my buddy's brain, and everything else faded from consciousness except for the siren call of firefighting. Next thing I know, B.A.R.T. is zipping through traffic as Shack-Fu agitatedly calls various numbers trying to get clearance to help out. As we sped over to I-35W, Shack turned to me and said "Now, when we get there, you'll need to put on this hard-hat and stay in the truck."

I assured him that me staying in the truck while fires were raging around wasn't going to be that difficult for me although, as it turned out, being around the fire wasn't nearly as nerve-wracking as the drive to the fires. Don't get me wrong: I have the utmost faith in Shack-Fu, and I know he would never purposefully endanger anyone's life. At the same time, if you could have seen the manic gleam in his eye at the prospect of being able to play with fire, you probably would have been bracing yourself and praying for safe passage as well*.

After a couple of calls, Shack-Fu finally made contact with the appropriate personnel, and we soon hear a call going out on the radio announcing that Shack had volunteered his services. Once he was officially cleared to be part of the team, Shack was able to turn on B.A.R.T.'s flashy lights and really speed to the scene.

Unfortunately for my fire-fighting fanatic friend, the speed of our travel proved fruitless, for the fire had already been mostly contained by the time he checked in with the central command. Still, since we had driven all the way out there, and since there was still some burning going on, Shack-Fu drove on over to the burn site to see if there was anything he could do. The fire had ravaged the fields of some poor farmer, and among the large burnt black fields you could see the remains of numerous bales of hay being consumed by flame as the volunteer fire fighters drove around trying to put out anything burning too close to the unburnt sections, and a bulldozer pushed the undamaged hay bales out of harm's way.

Eagle-eye Shack noticed a clump of hay bales which were burning way too close to the edge of the blackened area, and quickly drove B.A.R.T. over to check it out. He waved down the bulldozer and after they inspected the area, the dozer operator called for a brush truck to come over and help contain the potentially dangerous scenario.

After that potential crisis was averted, Shack decided to get out his axe and start breaking up some of the other burning piles of hay to help speed up their consumption.

It wasn't long before the command center started releasing all of the extra help which had answered the call. We were starting to head back towards I-35 when a call came over the radio for another fire in Justin. Shack-Fu began fumbling for the GPS unit, trying to get the address programed in, when we met one of the brush trucks. Shack yelled out to ask them if they were headed for the fire that had just been called in, and when they said yes, he fell in behind them. We then began an incredibly long and dusty drive down the back roads of Justin, the road barely visible because of the great cloud of dust being kicked up from the gravel road by the truck in front of us. After numerous twists and turns which left us wondering if the fellows ahead of us actually knew where they were going, we finally reached the scene of the second fire. Once again, by the time we had arrived, the situation was under control. This time the fire had come dangerously close the propane tank behind a nice home, into which the current occupants had just moved a month or two ago. Once again, Shack-Fu wielded his axe to spread out burning debris to allow better saturation from the fire hoses, but since there was only one debris pile, it wasn't exactly a grand endeavor.

As we were leaving the scene, Shack-Fu recognized some folks he had worked with before, and so we stopped so he could visit and compare the relative merits of the shiny lights installed in each of their vehicles. After a bit, everyone vacated, and we started the trek back to Denton. I'm afraid that Shack wasn't much of a conversationalist on this drive, as I often found myself shushed into silence anytime an alert would sound over the scanner; most of the time the alert was for an EMT call, and a dejected Shack-Fu would try to return his attention to whatever we had been discussing. We were probably a good 15 minutes from my place when another alarm sounded, this time for a massive fire in Sanger. Shack-Fu had me type the address into his GPS, and once again we were off -- and, once again, by the time we got there, everything was under control. He had just gotten back into B.A.R.T. after finding out his assistance was not needed at the Sanger fire when a call went out for help for a fire in Aubrey. We had some difficulty getting his GPS unit to accept the cross streets named in the call that went out, and we wound up having to just make up an address for one of the streets and then follow the road around until we saw smoke. Three guesses as to whether there was anything for Shack to do by the time we got there . . .

By the time we discovered the Aubrey fire in capable hands Shack-Fu decided (reluctantly, I might add) to call it a night, since we both had not only a New Year's Eve party to attend a bit later, but he also had dinner plans with paintballer Fearless Leader Juliet and his new fiance. So, after being dragged all over the back roads of Denton county by my obsessive pal, I finally was granted my freedom a little after 6 o'clock. Not quite how I had planned spending the penultimate day of my Christmas break, but I suppose it was better than just sitting around the house doing nothing like I would have been doing otherwise. I mean, sure, most of the 5 hours I spent in the clutches of Shack-Fu also entailed me just sitting around doing nothing, but at least I got to see lots of stuff burning up.

Oh, and I also got to fear for my life while riding with a Shack-Fu enraptured by visions of his first chance at fire fighting in many, many months, so that has to count for something, right?

*Later that night, Squiggly would remind him that crashing the car on the way to help people wouldn't be in anyone's best interest, since it's hard to respond to a situation when you're not responsive.


Me said...

By the way, Shack-Fu and I have agreed (for the time being, mind you) that the GPS system in B.A.R.T. is now to be called S.A.L.L.Y. Yes, I was and still am very reluctant to concede to this newly established disbursement of names, and argued my point that the GPS system should be B.A.R.T. and S.A.L.L.Y. should the the vehicle, but I told Shack Fu that I will let him have his way. Of course, the other seven agreed to no such thing. :) HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA