Friday, August 17, 2007

A Fire, and Open Source Journalism

This is not my house. But it was close enough:

Photo by Garrett Burke.

I woke up last night around 12:45 AM from a nightmare that I was back in the LA Riots, with buildings burning around me (I'll tell that story another time).

I was still in that early state of waking mental retardation when I heard a FWOOOOMP and our bedroom was lit orange and red, and I could feel heat from a fire coming in the windows.

My wife jumped out of bed, panicked. I lay in bed, panicked. We both ran upstairs to the deck and saw this:

Photo by Garrett Burke.

The fire was enormous. A construction site near us had gone up - no sprinklers, no fire retardant materials, nothing. We could hear people yelling, and waves of heat were hitting us even 200 yards away.

Then embers started falling on our house and our (very dry) yard.

Dawn grabbed Harrison. I grabbed Morgan. As we headed outside I saw one of my neighbors, only more orange, running towards the fire. Not my first instinct, I gotta admit, but his house was further away and safe from the fallout.

We put the bewildered, scared kids in the car and Dawn took them to a nearby friend's house. I grabbed a hose and started chasing down smoldering coals in my yard. My neighbor was out hosing down his trees.

The police and firefighters were on the scene within about five minutes. For about ten minutes, though, hot coals ranging from dime- to walnut-sized were wafting gracefully down on our yard.

Somehow, nothing ignited. Around 1:30 the fire was under control, and we weren't getting any more embers. But I found glowing coals in my yard up until almost 2 AM.

Dawn and the kids came home and crawled into bed. We all slept in our room - the kids were too scared to do anything else.

Because it was a construction site, no one died. Three firefighters were hurt - no civilians that I know of.

Here's the distance between our house and the fire. About 200 meters:

After things were calming down, I went online to see what was up. The West Seattle Blog was already providing blow-by-blow information on the fire and who was affected. They did an excellent job, and had all the information long before any local news outlets.

This makes me think about a lot of folks who talk about dispersed, open-source journalism. It's not something that's coming. It's here.

Adopt your neighborhood - write about it occasionally. Make sure that folks know they can go there to keep up to date.


Anonymous WSB said...

Hi, credit where credit is due, the photos of the flames are from Garrett Burke and we obtained specific permission from him to use them on WSB. Please hotlink them to his blog, which is - that's the deal we made with him. (Given the area you showed, he may well be a neighbor of yours.)

10:03 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

Thanks for the info - I've contacted Garrett, and also created a link to his blog.

Again, this was great work!

10:25 AM  
Blogger julia said...

Wow - that would be an adrenaline rush of the wrong kind! Glad to hear you didn't have anything more exciting to write about...

Neighborhood news through blogs will always outpace the regular news outlets. How could it be otherwise?

11:10 AM  

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