Friday, 29 August 2008

Fire in Southwest France


Decided to take a trip down to the Corbiéres last night to visit friends. The landscape down there is in complete contrast to our part of the Aude. It's far more rugged down towards the Mediterranean coast. Miles of scrub, pine trees filling the air with their sweet fragrance, intense heat beating down on the rocks protruding from the hillsides. The air is sharp and crystal clear.

As we headed towards our friends I noticed a black billowing cloud of smoke snaking up into the sky. It looked like a house on fire. Introductions, kisses and pleasantries were exchanged but our attentions were drawn towards the plume of smoke which was getting larger by the minute situated on the hill beyond. Suddenly the buzzing of a helicopter could be heard and within minutes a small white plane circled overhead. The fire began to take hold and huge belches of black smoke poured upwards to the piercing blue sky. By now everyone was riveted and watching the direction of the wind anxiously and quietly. 'The Pompiers will evacuate us if it gets dangerous' one of the men said but the women continued to vigilantly scan the skyline with some unease.

Suddenly in the most spectacular curve heading towards us as if in a fly by formation came the solid bright yellow fire planes. Like enormous cumbersome prehistoric dinosaurs they rumbled directly overhead and with practised swoops discharged their cargo of water into the sickly yellow heart of the fire. Six of them, one after another, backwards and forwards refilling their tanks with water sucked up from the sea. By now the road below was filled with a line of cars. People stood wordlessly and watched as the sound of crackling echoed in the distance. The sight of the jagged red flames licking over the top of the hill bought gasps from the crowd. A lone white truck had driven up the path and sat perched on the very top of the hill glistening against the dull grey. A lone peacock wailed forlornly, the dogs barked their warnings and worried at our ankles.

But the planes persevered and slowly the ugly mushrooming clouds dwindled. By the time we were all sitting down to eat with a much needed glass of wine the hill beyond was just a deep pink glow although we later learn that it destroyed 200 hectares which is 500 acres and the first serious fire this year on the Mediterranean coast.

Fire is a cruel monster when started deliberately and threatening to be out of control but it's hold over you as a spectator is undeniably powerful.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

It looks rather close Sally ....

ChrisH said...

I've been catching up with the posts I've missed and was feeling a bit envious of all the sunshine but this demonstrates the flip side of the dry weather. What a huge amount of damage. Glad you are safe... and able to drink a restorative glass of wine.

Debs said...

How frightening for everyone. Glad to hear that they managed to put the fire out, mind you that's a huge area to be burnt. I'm not surprised you all needed a glass of wine.

muddyboots said...

awesome!

Pondside said...

Fire has got to be one of the scariest things that Mother Nature can throw at us. When it's deliberatly set it's one of the worst of crimes. We live with the worry over here, as our forests are so dry all summer. While a rainy summer puts paid to our plans for barbecues etc we are always glad to know that the forest floor might get a little less 'crunchy'.
Gorgeous photos on your past few blogs - you live in paradise!

Milla said...

fire, deep sea, elements generally, very scary. Have been skim catching up - love love love your photos, that green door, sigh.

lampworkbeader said...

Take care Sally. A little too hot for once....

snailbeachshepherdess said...

bit too close for comfort.

LittleBrownDog said...

Gosh, that looks very scary, Sally. Hope they managed to extinguish it before it got too close for comfort (and you didn't need to resort to using your wine to put it out).

Elley said...

Hi! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment! I hope you come by again!

btw, cool blog! :D

Frances said...

Good evening Sally,
This post about the nearby fire just brings to my mind the past few years' worth of raging fires on the west coast of our county ... my uncle lives in southern California, and I always worry about him, even as I try to keep up to date on the spread of these fires via news reports. He has assured me that he always knows when to put the valuables into the car and be ready to escape.

I am curious how these sorts of summer fires are handled via the media in France. When you were headed to your friends' home, was there any warning?

Don't know which is better too much warning or not enough. Anyhow, glad your friends are safe and the evening was fun.

xo

Amanda said...

Hi Sally,
How scary for you. Glad the fire got put out - but at such cost. :-(

Flowerpot said...

good to meet you Sally - sounds like a wonderful part of the world. My mother's house was nearly destroyed by fire some years ago and she still has nightmares about it now. My brother and his wife and two children were staying with her at the time too. It took Months before she was able to live in the house again.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Glad I've finally dropped by...being meaning to for quite a while. I often daydream about living abroad...Mallorca is the current daydream destination. It's the whole water thing that worries me. Mind you we've got gallons of it up here. We should build a big pipe....Re: fire - very happy that all's well that ends well.