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After relentless whining and moaning about the weather in the Seattle area these past few weeks it was time to get out of town…off to the Long Beach Peninsula on the Washington Coast! 

Take a look at that picture above…there is simply nothing more glorious than this.  4th of July holiday weekend and not a cloud in the sky looking down at the tide pools along the Pacific Ocean.  Lots of young cousins running around, splashing in the ocean.  This is what we live for!  I’ve been heading to this part of the state every year since I was, well, just a few months old.  And I couldn’t be more grateful to have this slice of heaven deep in my family’s history.

I’ll have more tomorrow about what I packed for this family getaway.  The weather is unpredictable on the coast year ’round, so more than likely you’ll need both a bathing suit AND polar fleece even in the summer.  Stay tuned for more about that.

What I want to write about tonight is to share the scare we had around lunchtime on July 4 and some other family drama the night before.  Take a look:

This is the view looking east (inland) and downhill from the westernmost duneline back toward our family property, our summer home and a few other properties as well [our house is the 2nd from the left]. If you did a 180 degree turn you’d see a wide stretch of greyish sand and the beautiful Ocean.  What you’re looking at here is about 3 or 4 acres of beach grass that burned in a fire.  A stupid, senseless fire started by some fuckers who thought it would be a brilliant idea to launch a goddamned bottle rocket in the tinder-dry beach grass to celebrate the 4th of July.  ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?  Ooops, I should have probably prefaced this post with a warning that there will be profanity in here.  Guess it’s too late now.  I’m on a roll, people.  Yes, we found said bottle rocket launcher later in these charred dunes, precisely where we’d first noticed the smoke at lunchtime earlier.  CSI Ocean Park!

My youngest brother and his family were planning to arrive at the beach house the night of the 3rd, the same night I drove in as well, joyously tossing the laptop into its briefcase and into my car’s trunk for a 5-day dormant slumber.  Well, things don’t always go as planned.  My eldest nephew, turning 9 in just a couple of weeks, went 5 feet down SPLAT onto a neighbor’s sport court during a block party the night before, while attempting a superman-ish leap from an embankment behind a basketball court onto a bar behind the backboard or perhaps the hoop itself.  Didn’t quite make the bar or hoop… 

The poor guy ended up with a concussion, a fractured bone in his left hand and about 40 stitches in his chin.  Oh man!  My brother and sister-in-law were with him in the ER until the wee hours of the 4th.  My sister-in-law stayed home with my nephew, while my brother brought my niece and youngest nephew out to the beach house on just a few hours sleep.  It was sad not having his whole family there with us, but we were so grateful little C was OK and getting excellent medical care, not to mention an outpouring of support from the families in the neighborhood.  He’s going to be fine; it’s just going to be a bit of a road to recovery.

The town of Ocean Park, WA always has a parade in the afternoon on July 4th.  You see everything from the grocery store’s shopping cart drill team, a bunch of the local car clubs’ prized possessions, local politicians running for office, a few clowns, the local belly dancing troupes doing their thing and kids on bicycles and tricycles, and a super cool flyby of a US Coast Guard helicopter.  It’s great!  One group noticeably absent in the parade this year…the local fire department…they were hard at work battling the beach grass fire near our property!

Earlier, my Mom’s cousin and my Dad were headed out to the main street to stake out spots along the parade route, lawn chairs in hand as we do every year.  I remember calling my Dad on his cell from the house as I had forgotten whether he would be coming back to the house to grab some lunch or if my Mom and I were to just meet him and the rest of the family out on the parade route.  He wanted to come back and grab a quick sandwich and maybe a short power nap too!

Well, notsomuch.  Shortly after sitting down at the table with a nice sandwich he looked out the window and noticed smoke about a quarter-mile out in our large, grassy meadow rising up from the beach grass.  Within seconds there were flames.  Oh my God!  We didn’t see anyone fleeing the fire scene…we just saw the fire continue to spread.  And spread.  And spread.  The wind was blasting in our direction, and the fire was hungry.  When there is nothing but super-dry beach grass and sand to feed a fire, it keeps moving. 

Dad called 911 and, as we learned later, he was the first to call it in.  Within 30 seconds we heard sirens screaming.  Good news!  Right now the 4th of July parade seemed all but a faint blip on our brains. There was a goddamn FIRE burning near my family’s and a couple of other people’s properties and it seemed like no one was around but us to give a shit.  The properties adjacent to ours are far apart and sparse.  Thank GOD we were around and not already out at the parade!

Although the sirens were a welcome relief, it seemed like eternity until one of them (a water truck, not a full-on firetruck…this is a small town) showed up to plow through our meadow out to the fire.  Turns out the fire department did not have updated information on which of the homes on our street had the right access for them to come through!  I learned later that one of my cousins staying in the cabin across the street finally flagged them down, after they were zooming up and down the street to no avail, and showed them the path to take after crossing the bridge over the creek onto our property which would lead them into the meadow to go fight the fire.  Ummm…methinks there is going to be some MAJOR debriefing and documentation updates with the local fire department.

So the fire was burning, spreading unpredictably, about a quarter-mile from our house and I have never been so close to a fire like that in my life.  And I never hope to ever again.  Neighbors were starting to congregate onto our back deck to watch everything unfold.  We were dumbfounded.  I remember my body seething, rippling in both FEAR and ANGER.  I’M SO AFRAID…and WHO THE FUCK DOES THIS???  What kind of COWARD runs away from a fire they started??  I stood on our back deck, transfixed at the fire and the firefighters as they tried to contain the fire, while every single fiber of my being at the same time was SCREAMING at me to GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE.  And I remember telling my cousin J as he stood beside me on the deck that if I ever found out who started that fire I’d rip their fucking head off.  I remember my Dad mumbling out loud, wondering if he should get the house garden hoses ready to hose down the roof…one side of our property is nothing but super-duper dry trees that would have flared up in an instant had the fire made it that far.  We just sat, watched, dumbfounded.  We just didn’t know.

After about an hour, the fire was out.  I remember screaming THANK YOU and waving my arms at one of the water trucks as they exited our property.  My heart was still pounding…and I was worried about fires flaring up again later in that same large spot. 

And for the first time in my life, I went to a parade with full intent to RELAX…to get back to some sort of holiday normalcy.  Of course that was next to impossible.  It was nice having our lawn chairs reserved on the parade route, but all we could talk about with each other and anyone near us was about the fire.  People were wondering…oh yeah I heard the sirens…you mean that was near you?? Yes, it sure was.  I about hugged Smokey the Bear as he made his way through the parade route, handing candy out to the little kids.

I’ll have more about the rest of the weekend – more normal stuff – tomorrow.  I just am so thankful for the 911 dispatchers and the local fire department for springing into action and saving homes and lives.  Everything happens exactly as it’s supposed to.  Had the parade started at its normal time, noon, we’d have been on the parade route with lawn chairs and beverages, nowhere near the meadow.  This year, for some reason, the parade started at 1pm.  We made the 911 call when we spotted the fire around 11:30am.  See what I mean?

This weekend I am especially thankful…for FREEDOM and FIREFIGHTERS!

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