|Looking up the Ewes Valley|
Porridge and Honey
Usually when the clocks change I take a couple of days to get acclimatised, but for some reason I felt quite refreshed when I woke this morning. After a hearty breakfast of porridge and honey I set about the garden in a light hearted way, doing small jobs like putting the greenhouse door back on it's runners properly, something that has been annoying me all winter. The brushwood I had cut earlier in the month was added to the compost heap with a generous helping of paper that had just been shredded by Mrs Gill. We seem to have got this composting down to a fine art over the years and can produce a substantial amount of rich loam to put back into the garden every year.Mrs Gill pruned the Bhudlia bush while I gave the heather bed a good hoeing.
Peace and Quiet
As it was such a lovely night and I had about an hours extra daylight to play with I decided to have a run up the Newcastleton road and into the Tarras valley. I was informed in the British Legion on Friday night by Kenny Bell that the first male hen harrier was back along with a pair of merlin. Although there was no sign of either it was nice just to enjoy the peace and quiet.
Protecting the Town
On returning I noticed there had be some heather burning adjacent to the road side. This brought to mind when the whole hillside went ablaze. We had just come to the end of the holiday fortnight that usually followed the Common Riding. The majority of the crew were still on holiday which left myself Sub Officer Mick Ryan and Leading Fire-fighter Brent Thomlinson to bravely protect the town. After returning from a daring dash to Edinburgh Woollen Mill which turned out to be a false alarm, we were redirected to a report of grass burning by the roadside just over the rise past the McDiarmid memorial.
A Stray Spark
We located what was a small patch of grass and heather well alight. The pump was put into gear and the fire was sprayed with ample amounts of water. Just when we thought we had extinguished the blaze I can remember vividly a stray spark being caught by the wind and jumping a few feet into the tinder like heather which immediately caught alight. The wind suddenly got up and with just the three of us things started to get out of control.
Things went from bad to worse
We made pumps three and soon had assistance from Annan and Gretna. Things went from bad to worse and soon the whole hillside was ablaze.with appliances coming as far afield as Castle Douglas, Cumbria and Lothian & Borders. Even a helicopter was involved at one point. Water was ferried from the Esk by a continuous stream of appliances. The water was dumped into what looked like a giant sized paddling pool then pumped up the hill side by intermediate portable pumps. If I remember right it took several fillings of the dam to charge the hose to the fire front. There was great camaraderie amongst us all that day and it was great to see that three different Brigades could work easily together. This was proved on a national scale during the aftermath of the Lockerbie bombing.
|Controlled Heather Burning|
This turned out to be the biggest and most expensive fire Dumfries & Galloway Fire Brigade had that year. What was the cause you may ask? Who knows, a cigarette butt carelessly thrown out of a passing vehicle or perhaps just nature itself. We'll never know. But it was one hell of a long few days.