Trent Ernst, Editor
Last week, there was a fire.
It caused a fair bit of structural damage to a trailer down on the lower bench. And, being the town reporter, I went down to get some “brave firefighters working to protect the town” type shots.
Which is all well and good, but, even before I started taking pictures, a rather annoyed fellow came over and asked—no, it was more told— “you’re not going to advertise this in your paper.”
There was so much wrong with that statement that I, of course, said no, and he walked away, satisfied. I didn’t have a chance to explain that I am the editor, so I provide editorial content, not advertising content (except for the Eye For Detail ad, and I pay for that.)
I also didn’t have a chance to explain that, while I am the editor and publisher these days, it’s not actually my paper. I just run it for the actual owner.
(And no, the paper is not run by or paid for by the District, either, which is something some other people have asked about in the past; we are a private, ad supported paper.)
The comment got under my skin, just a little, because here’s the fire department, come to save his house, and his first concern is with the publicity.
It’s not the first time that I’ve been told something similar “you’re not going to cover this, are you?”
Generally, I don’t, because a lot of times it isn’t really that big of news, though I am well within my rights as a journalist to do so, if I thought the story was big enough.
In the case of the fire, it wasn’t. It might make it into the fire report, but it’s not something that I feel a need to write about, other than about how irritating it is to have people try and dictate how I should do my job.
But after a while I put myself in his shoes. How would I feel if someone were to talk about how my house nearly burned down in the paper?
Not sure, so lets try it and find out.
This story goes back a while, four, maybe five neighbours back. The one that clipped the gunwale of my canoe while plowing his driveway with his ATV? Yeah, that one.
It was November, and bitterly cold, but the snow had yet to fall in earnest. Instead, there was just a light skiff of the white stuff on the ground.
I had been having fires in my wood stove for a few weeks already, and had taken and cleaned out the ashes from my stove.
I took the new ashes and put them on top of the ashes that had been sitting in the ashbox for six months.
Instead of letting the new ashes sit and cool off, though, I took them back to the compost pile behind my shed.
They were cold-ish, and I didn’t think that, buried in the cold ashes were some hot coals. And, even if they were, it was cold enough to kill them.
But a pile of ash makes a wonderful blanket, and the hot coals made their way down to the compost pile, which had dry grass at the top of it. It was frozen and frosty, true, but the heat defrosted it and dried it out, and a slow, smouldering fire started in the compost pile, and from there, made its slow, steady way over towards the shed.
I, meanwhile, was oblivious to this whole process, having gone back inside, until said neighbour knocked on the door. “Hey,” he said. “You know your shed is on fire, right?”
I ran out back, and yes indeed, my shed was on fire. Not flame leaping towards the sky, just a slow burn that had crept across the compost pile and was chewing away at the back wall.
I ran back inside, grabbed a fire extinguisher, ran back outside and emptied the fire extinguisher at the flames, then hooked up a hose and began to soak the compost pile and the inside of the shed.
And that’s when the fire department showed up.
Fortunately, I got out of it with nothing more than a singed shed. And boy howdy, did I feel a little sheepish about what I did, especially because I know better than to dump hot ashes.
But I’m thankful that we have a fire department, and that they’ll show up when there are fires. Even if they are my own fault.