Costa Rica

FIRE! FIRE! What do You Grab?

Roca Verde Fire

Roca Verde Fire

Ironically, I was going through my closet looking for clothing to donate to the fire victims of Heredia, Costa Rica when I smelled smoke. I walked outside and there were white particles floating in the air. Ashes!

Was this something I created in my head while I was thinking of the poor people who lost everything in a fire? Or was there really a fire?

As soon as I walked to the end of my driveway, I heard the crackling. That is when it hit home; the crackling. The sirens of the fire trucks took second place to the crackling which seemed to be creeping closer. Once my eyes registered the flames, it seemed to be getting louder. I could see the flames across the street which is far enough away to not seem like a danger to my house. But wait; the wind! The wind in Roca Verde swirls every-which-way through the hills and valleys; east, now west, then east again. The wind whips around so fast, east and west meld together and you’re simply in a vortex.

The fire could easily jump the road and it wouldn’t take much to ignite the dry foliage. Costa Rica’s dry season is from November to April or May. It rarely rains at all during this time and everything gets dry. The lawn in front of my house is emerald green in the rainy season; now, in March, it’s so dry it’s like walking over a  field of Rice Krispies.

Hearing the crackling, I flashed back to the limited fire-fighting training I had when I worked as crew on a charter boat. Our crew training included donning heavy fire-fighting gear and extinguishing a raging fire. Scary stuff. We were warned about boat fires while at sea. Nobody is coming; you are on your own. Oh, you could make a “May-Day” call, but by the time somebody could get to you, even if they could locate you,  it would be too late. We were instructed to put out the fire or get in the dinghy and get outta there before she blows!

Blows?! The gardener from the house closest to the approaching flames was walking down the hill while I was walking up to assess the situation. He said: “Es peligroso (dangerous). Gas. If the fire hits the gas line, it will blow up. Yikes!

I raced home and packed my evacuation bags: family photos, my rough draft of “It’s the Parsley”, a cookbook I’m working on, my jewelry, passport, cash, laptop, camera, three days worth of clothing, and Toby, the Chocolate Lab’s toys. Lucky me, I had several offers of places to go. People show their true colors in times of crisis.

Neighbors help neighbors. People speak to each other when, in normal times, months or even years go by without any exchange. I clearly remember the Santa Cruz earthquake of 1989. The whole neighborhood shared food, clothing and shelter for days while the after-shocks continued to rattle our homes.

Fire is nothing to be trifled with. Today I witnessed our Atenas Bomberos ( fire-fighters) run up and down the hill all day long dousing flames, going back to the station, re-filling the truck and dousing some more. They will be working through the night to keep us safe.

There are two sets of bags sitting by my front door; my evacuation bags and the donation bags for the people in Heredia who were fortunate to escape with their lives and little else.

On February 27, 2014 – 31 families in Guarari, Heredia (a neighborhood made up of many shacks near the Paseo de las Flores Mall), consisting of 106 adults and 35 kids, LOST ALL their material items – EVERYTHING they own to a fire.

I challenge you to go through your stuff, if you live anywhere nearby, and donate to this cause.

These people did not have much to begin with, but starting from nothing is pretty darn tough.

We ALL have “stuff” we’re no longer using and can stand to let go!!  PLEASE DONATE IT – everything from household items, furniture, appliances, food, school supplies, clothes for ALL size from baby+, cleaning items, personal hygiene items, shoes, toys++++!!!

The Heredia Police station and the Cruz Roja•Red Cross are accepting donations.

(THANX for sharing this Wendy!)

Help if you can!

11 thoughts on “FIRE! FIRE! What do You Grab?

  1. Carole, whew! I hadn’t realized where it was or that it was that close to you. I hope you know you can always come here for any reason. Toby can live at the casita. Do you know how people here show their support for the bomberos?


    Judith M. LaBelle President Emeritus and Senior Fellow Glynwood (845) 264-3132



  2. My dear friend, thank goodness you are safe! You certainly never have to go looking for stories for your blog, they come rushing at you! Loved the boat saga and now the fire, that is terrifying. Life in Costa Rica is the real thing, not just ziipping through forests and lazing on beaches!


    • Sally, yup, living here full time is totally different than visiting even for extended periods. Snowbirds leave before the torrential rains with its set of problems. Visitors have no idea what some of the people, especially the poor have to endure. And yet, they remain cheerful, friendly, positive, and grateful (for the most part). They set a good example!


  3. Oh my goodness, Carol, I am so glad you and your casitia are safe and untouched. I know those hills in Roca Verde, and I am impressed with your little fire department. Another great story, a scary ‘adventure” and I have lots to donate, so I will! Love you and keep safe, always.


  4. The first house we rented 15 years ago was past the entrance to Roca Verde. At that time Roca Verde was just a green hillside with grazing cattle. Sigh. At the end of Calle Boqueron was the town dump and it was always burning, but it was worse during the windy dry season. I remember one night when the wind took the fire to behind the rental house…I could feel the heat, see the flames and hear them crackle. Tom and I didn’t sleep much that night…..


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