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9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

“A wildfire is heading straight for our house!”

“Are you in immediate danger?”

“Well…yes! The fire’s heading this way!”

“How far off are the flames? How long before they reach you?”

“I don’t know. We’ve never had a wildfire here before!”

“I can only help if you let me. Can you at least guesstimate?”

“For Pete’s sake!”

“Is that your final answer?”

“With the distance and topography, I’d say maybe two or three hours.”

“Excellent.”

“Excellent!?”

“You seem to have plenty of time to evacuate.”

“But there are only two ways out. One is already blocked by flames!”

“And the other?”

“I can’t tell from here. The fire could get there before we do.”

“But you’re not sure?”

“Send us some help!”

“Please calm down. Getting hysterical is counterproductive.”

“Oh my God.”

“Yes, there is power in prayer.”

“Can you please send some firefighters?”

“Firefighters and equipment cost a lot of money.”

“I pay my taxes!”

“But the CEOs in town don’t.”

“Just send what you can, okay?”

“Those fire engines burn a lot of fossil fuel, you know.”

“I…I…”

“Oh, stop making such a fuss. You haven’t even tried evacuating yet.”

“I don’t want to lose my home and everything in it!”

“Good grief. Losing your house isn’t the end of the world.”

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“Help us!”

“Okay, okay. Listen, do you have a sprinkler system in your yard?”

“Yes…”

“Excellent. Turn it on.”

“We’re in a drought. The timer is controlled by the city council. We get half an hour of water twice a week.”

“Hmm. I passed the golf course on my way to work this morning. It looked green enough.”

“Can you activate our sprinklers from your location?”

“I’m afraid not. But how about this? I can make a call to the city council—an urgent call, tell them it’s a priority—and ask them to raise your water allowance.”

“What!?”

“Sure. We’ll get you four days of sprinkler usage a week and increase your allotment to an hour each time.”

“Are you out of your friggin’ mind!? The fire will be here in two hours!”

“Don’t exaggerate. You already said it could take up to three hours.”

“We need help now!”

“I’m calling the city council on another line as we speak. I’ll get them to turn on your sprinklers before the end of the work day.”

“Today’s Saturday.”

“I’ll leave a message and send an email.”

“I…I…”

“No need to thank me. This is what we’re trained for.”

“Please…”

“I’ll put the subject line in all caps.”

“Can. You. Please. Send. Some. Firefighters!?”

“Don’t you worry. I’ll call the After Hours line, too, while I stay on this line with you. You won’t be alone. And your sprinklers will be on again before you know it. Plus, I hear the City is about to sign a new contract for better water service any day now. Better filters and everything.”

“But…”

“Oh, someone’s picking up. I just need a moment to explain the situation to them.”

“Tell them to send helicopters!”

“Ah, it’s voice mail.”

“Tell them…tell them…”

“You might want to pull your window shades down while you wait. That’ll deflect some of the heat. Do you have any white paint around the house?”

“Oh my God! The flames are getting so close! They’ll be here in thirty minutes!”

You said you had hours.”

“For the love of God…”

“Please hold.”