Student - April 28, 2010

Smoke fumes

My first reaction is not one of alarm. I was mainly caught by surprise at the thick fumes in the nature reserve I go to almost every weekend. I see two Scouting members in the distance walking round and round a burning pile. It's not a campfire; there's no mistake about that.

'Don't panic', I tell myself. The scouts too don't seem frightened in particular. So I remain silent. Actually, I am frightened myself and trembling a little. Although I am a forest and nature management student, I don't really feel up to being a hero. I don't dare to put out the flames which leap higher than neck level. The warmth feels strange, a little surreal.
'The burning began all of a sudden', says one of the scouts. 'Then we called 112. The fire department is on its way here.' From afar, the police approach us. 'Did you see anyone else around?' asks a tall balding policeman. A negative answer from the scout and I puts an end to their investigation into the cause of the fire.
A howling siren announced the arrival of the fire department. And then things unfold like in a film, but a comedy it is. A red-and-black fire station bicycle is the first to arrive on the scene. The driver of the fire engine, which arrived soon afterwards, does not have the keys for the road barrier.
'Can I offer more help?' I ask the balding officer. 'No, the fire department has eight men in its team', he says, feeling almost insulted. 'Everything is under control; please leave quickly.' However, before I could paddle three steps on my bike, the fire department calls after me: 'We're not from around here and we don't know where we can find water. If you see a triangular shape thing somewhere, can you call out to us?' My jaw drops in surprise, but I'm not in the mood to laugh. 'Here, take my bike', I reacted in astonishment.
Perplexed, I stay to watch. The film carries on, and in a matter of hours, the fire is put out, while the police joke about my being on the spot so quickly, but yet don't find it necessary to note down my name. 'There's nothing left but to get a drink', laughs the commander. The film has inklings of a happy ending, and luckily, the damage has been kept to a minimum. Just then, an elderly cyclist stops by: 'Sir', she addresses me, 'May I cycle pass or is there some kind of practice going on?' 

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