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Flames and a near-miss bring a new perspective to life

Heather Lende
The area of historic Fort Seward where the fire started, during a north gale, with winds coming off the beach toward the buildings. The fire was in a shed to the left. Courtesy: Heather Lende

HAINES -- Our lumberyard did not burn down this morning, although the fast-roaring fire next door was pretty scary, and thanks to the great Haines Volunteer Fire Department it was contained to one substantial shed at Leo and George Ann Smith's place.

Leo lost his boat and tools, and they had full freezers in there. One window in the house broke from the heat, but that's it. (The shed is nothing but charcoal.)

The way the north wind was blowing off the cove, it's a miracle the 100-year-old Army sheds that Leo's newer outbuilding backed up against didn't catch. Or, for that matter, their house just feet away. Or the area shops. Or the Fireweed. Or our big sheds full of kiln-dried wood. The whole block could have been lost.

Chip and I were just coming in from our morning bike ride out the highway when Mike pedaled towards us on the recumbent bike he rides to work. He crossed over to the center line to see us. It was pretty quiet in front of the school today, with only the staff in for end-of-the-year clean-up, but Mike is Mr. Safety, and being a cycling advocate he knows his rules of the road. 

So I knew something must be up. He said the fire trucks were all in front of Chip's store, Lutak Lumber, but he didn't think it was on fire yet.

After we sped on down and checked on the action -- and saw everything was fine and  thanked the firemen and told George Ann  we were sorry about the boat and the shed but happy she and Leo were safe, we pedaled up and over the blustery hill home.

The entire ride I had been preoccupied with worry and fretting about all kinds of very important things like books to write and gardens to plant and wedding invitations to mail and what will I wear? And why won't my dog come when she's called? Terribly important things.

Sometimes a near miss is just what a person needs to put life in perspective, you know?

Haines writer Heather Lende is finishing her third book of essays, “Finding the Good.” This post originally appeared on her blog. It has been reprinted with permission.