The winter here on Crete has been warmer and a lot drier than last year. This was a lot easier to deal with but has brought its own problems. At this time of year olive tree owners are pruning their olive trees and burning the smaller branches in the olive groves. A few days ago my usual routine was interrupted by a very loud noise which sounded very much like firecrackers being set off or guns firing into the air ( a not infrequent occurrence at weddings and other celebrations here on Crete) but when I went to investigate…being a typical village dweller (nosey) I saw the source of the noise. About 150 metres down into the valley, from our house I saw plumes of black smoke and flames reaching about 30 feet into the air and from what I could see the fire was spreading rapidly. I ran up to the nearest neighbours and could see that the villagers were already gathering in the square and the younger residents running down through the brush towards the fire and the older villagers gathering on roof tops and terraces to watch. This was the closest I had ever come to a brush fire, our home being on the edge of the village and first in line if the fire was not put out. I actually was in the process of deciding what to grab before deserting our home. Kent was resting in bed and I warned him to get ready to leave in a hurry if it became necessary. The good news is that the villagers were able to put out the fire, after about half an hour, hooking up hoses to taps in nearby vegetable gardens. The bad news is, rumour has it, that not only did the farmer leave the fire unattended but had poured diesel gas onto the bonfire to get it going! The other bad news is that the fire engine could not get through the village, to get close to the fire, because a car was parked in the way (another Greek custom…..double parking and even triple parking not being unusual here). At one point my friend, Manolis, who owns the sheep was contacted and came rushing down the alley to check on the sheep and to help put out the fire. Afterwards I received instructions on what to do if this happens again (God forbid). When the fire gets this close I must open the fence and let the sheep run away from the fire. What a decision to have to make! Never a dull moment in this, so called, “Sleepy Cretan village!”
I hope that is the closest I ever come to a brush fire again. By the way, what was I going to grab? My purse with our cash and credit cards was next to our front door so that was my choice. All other choices would have taken just too long.
The photo does not show just how scary this whole incident was, as by the time I had a moment to grab my camera the flames had died down and the villagers were getting the whole thing under control.