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Fire Season by VH Folland
For Matt and his flying club, there aren't any options left. Trapped residents, threatened towns and one small airstrip safely upwind of the fire line.
It's not a promising position, but they volunteer anyway, hoping a protected position and a base close to the fire might make a difference.
And then the wind changes.
For Matt, owner of the Brooke's Vale cropsprayer airstrip, and his flying club, accepting the unusual chance to fly fire prevention missions is simply being good neighbours. Deviating from his assigned fire prevention duties to try to stop a tragedy as it unfolds, the result leaves him devastated.
Now the nearer towns are threatened and Brooke's Vale itself is at risk. Jim, a transport pilot on leave, takes on the fire prevention flying to buy them time while Matt, grounded and in shock, is left to organise the community. With no power, no communications, one cropsprayer, thirty stranded residents and the fire closing in they'll have to find a miracle - or fly one.
“What happened?” Jim asked, worried. He put a hand on his brother’s shoulder, and Jake straightened, shaking him off.
“Stupid blasted kids. Mind if I grab a chair?” Without waiting for an answer he walked across, a little more slowly than usual, and took the seat that Matt gestured to. Pouring himself a mug of strong black coffee he downed most of it and paused, obviously collecting his thoughts. The others did not press him, and once he had recovered slightly he began.
“Nick’s refugees. The kids got bored and decided to amuse themselves.” He took a breath, obviously struggling to keep his tone level. “Starting fires with a magnifying glass on that field out the back. Don’t worry, Nick caught them early and between his hose and my tender we’ve put everything out and soaked the field down.”
“No.” Rose shook her head in disbelief. In this climate the sheer stupidity of the action was hard to believe.
“Yep. They were lighting bits of paper to watch them burn. Of course when the wind took them they didn’t bother to chase them down. I’ve just spent the last two hours walking round Nick’s field making sure the fire they started is out, and nothing’s quietly smoldering. Even with Nick’s help that’s a big job.”
“I’ve some whisky in the house,” Matt volunteered, but Jake shook his head.
“I’d rather keep my head clear until they’re gone. Just in case they do it again.”
“Nick must be livid,” Jill remarked, looking across the valley to the field.
“Absolutely furious. They’ve been politely invited to get their stuff and leave, refugees or no.”
“I’m surprised he’s not pressing charges.” Rose shook her head again, still stunned that anyone would light a fire in the middle of a fire ban.
“If he doesn’t, and they don’t leave, I will. One way or another I want them out. You’ve got me to mind the whole valley on my own, and those kids just became a fire risk.” Jake had calmed down slightly. “Their parents were appalled, so they were relieved when I gave them the option to get out instead of pressing charges. They’ll be gone as soon as they’re packed.”
As Jake finished, Jill pushed a plate of sandwiches at him and he grabbed one. It was gone in two bites.
“Help yourself to the rest. I‘m afraid you missed dinner.”