Friday, June 19, 2020

Kids, Your Dad is a Gosh Darn Hero

I wish I had a more dramatic picture, but I was busy being a hero.

I don't usually do a Father's Day post, but I guess I'm doing it this year because I'm feeling awfully fathery this morning. I've written a little bit about how I sometimes feel inadequate as a parent because I haven't taught my kids enough practical skills. They can barely swim. Aside from the 5 year old, they learned to ride bikes late and she only learned because the other kids did it first. I've lamented about the deterioration of my own hands-on skills. After taking wood working and working on construction sites as an adolescent, I convinced myself over the years that I didn't know how to perform basic repairs. I've recently been reversing that trend and engaging with the kids on home maintenance projects. We've been repairing windows, painting the exterior and caulking the tub. It feels good. I finally feel like the kind of dad I want to be.

Which brings us to last night.
It was a lush yard

Last night, I finally got the chance to do something really dadly.

This morning, at about 2:00am I heard someone coming up my front stairs. Yesterday, the neighborhood email list had been full of conversation about a mysterious series of occurrences where someone was knocking on doors and ringing doorbells in the middle of the night. When the knock and ring came, I sprang into action, convinced I was about to confront the Midnight Ringer. When I opened the door, there stood my neighbor from two doors down. 

"Charles? You're the Midnight Ringer?" Before the thought was fully formed, he yelled, "Your back yard is on fire!"

I sprinted to the back of the house. I could see the orange glow through the kitchen window. I reached for the phone, "Alice called 911," he offered out helpfully. It didn't register. 

"911 what's you emergency?

"My back yard is on fire"

"The whole yard, sir?

"No, uh mostly the fence. It's my neighbor's shed that's really on fire, but its in my yard too."

I stood at the back door momentarily stunned by the flames that looked like something out of a movie. The corner of the shed that abuts my fence in the yard behind my yard was engulfed in flames. I say shed, but it used to be a horse stable and had recently been converted to an outdoor covered patio. The fence that separates the yards was on fire about a third of the way along its length. I could smell apples on our tree being roasted.

I rousted myself from my stupor and ran to turn on our hose. I didn't want to wait for help as I realized that fire along the fence could get to my shed and then my next door neighbor's house. The neighbor on my left also has a garage that sits next to the burning barn. So, I faced the flames with my little garden hose expecting the water to turn to entirely ineffective steam. I was right. It was a futile gesture, at first. When I changed the hose nozzle from mist to stream, I was able to start putting down the flames. 

Honestly, it felt kinda badass. 

That's when I heard T yelling to the kids, "Get out! Get out! No that way, away from daddy. Go to the front." Sure, she was 100% correct from a safety perspective, though standing there on top of our garden box with my hose, I didn't think there was any imminent danger. My thought was, "But I want them to see their father being cool," though I didn't have the time or the inclination to really argue with her. 

By the time the firefighters came from two blocks away, I had things on my corner of the barn pretty well in hand. That is to say, it wasn't spreading but I was sure glad they came in to really get the deep soak that would ensure that there were no invisible embers that could reignite. They also put out the far side of the barn that I couldn't effectively reach with my little garden hose. For the next 90 minutes or so we chatted with the firefighters, the neighbors and each other. The kids made tea before going back to bed. We all forgot about distancing and masks for a minute as we assessed whether the remaining smoke was more embers in the wall, or just steam. (It was embers, they cut out a good section of the cross beams to quell it.) Yo got a fist bump from a firefighter. I asked if the foam they used was safe for our vegetable garden and they assured me it was basically dish soap.

As 4:00am rolled around, things were settling back down. The firefighters left. I secretly wanted some kind of "attaboy" or recognition for holding things down until they got there, but none came. Yes, inside I am still a 12-year-old hoping for affirmation from the people I wanted to be when I grew up. I did get a lot of thanks from my neighbors on each side for helping to save their yards. I in turn thanked Charles for knocking on the door. Though they didn't watch it all go down, I do think the kids see me as being a little more capable as a protector. I feel a little more capable too. Even though I spent many years training as a first responder, I still carry doubt about what I'll do when faced with an emergency. I feel better about myself this morning than I did at bed time last night. When we all got up in the morning I extolled the kids on how their dad saved the entire neighborhood.

Now, if only I could crack the case of the Midnight Ringer...



  1. Excellent Job!

    You didn't mention if you were in your PJs or changed into something else.

    1. I was in my version of PJs, basketball shorts and a t-shirt. I did grab shoes as well.

  2. Your neighbor AliceJune 21, 2020 at 1:26 PM

    Roberto, you were the hero! You totally prevented the rest of our corner of the block from catching fire!!! You stopped the spread at a critical moment, when weeks of dry weather had left everything vulnerable to a moment like this.

    Everyone should be aware that fires can spread out of control even in our areas -- it's not just a rural issue. Our homes and yards in the flats can go up in minutes too.

    I am grateful that it wasn't more windy out, which could have made this all terrible. You did the right thing, and stopped the spread. The shed can be repaired, but it would have been terrible to lose home. Thank you for your quick thinking!

    1. Thank you! And thanks to Moxie for alerting us all. :-)

  3. All kids think their dads are heroes. You ARE their hero! Never forget that!