The fire next door
How often do we witness a fire next door? And what would one normally do? Call the fire station? Prepare to assemble your precious belongings? Or run down to try to do something about it?
One man had the presence of mind, the confidence, and the daring to try and put out the fire himself. This is Maui Garcia’s recent experience.
Maui decided to spend the day after Father’s Day playing with his two young boys, Rodrigo and Diego. In the interlude of this idyllic playtime that took place in the boys’ second floor bedroom, Maui looked out the window and noticed smoke coming out of an upper room of their neighbor’s house. What alarmed and moved him was seeing the panic in the faces of the toddlers and their anguished mom who had rushed out of the house.
Maui, the second of two boys in a family of three, has always been intuitive, confident, and brave. He was also a risk-taker, not afraid to do the unusual or the untried. He rushed down to find out how he could help, as he believed that he was witnessing what seemed to be the beginning of a house on fire. He asked one of the helpers next door to point out to him the area where the fire had started (in the library, it seemed). The fire was now beginning to spread to the stairs. Unfortunately, the first fire extinguisher Maui found would not work.
Maui then rushed back to his house, took one of the fire extinguishers which he knew how to use, brought with him a phone that could double as a flashlight, and tightened the face shield and face mask he was wearing to give himself double protection from the smoke. He then returned to the scene of the fire, which was beginning to touch the wooden floors. There was thick dark smoke, but somehow he could see well enough to go to the library. Maui began to aim the fire extinguisher in that area, steadily and surely putting out the flames.
Maui’s face mask, which he used whenever he went out of the house, was soon blackened with soot. But it worked as his protection against the fumes emitted by the fire. Though his vision was blurred, his face shield also served him in good stead. He walked down to the spot where the young mother and her crying children had huddled, to calm them down and to tell them that their ordeal, though tough, was nearing its end.
It was only then that the first fire engines from the San Juan Fire Department arrived. At the sight of Maui, who seemed to have put the fire under control all by himself, the firemen said they might as well borrow his fire extinguisher rather than roll out their heavy hoses. Then, another five fire engines arrived, clogging the streets of P. Guevarra in San Juan to the consternation of neighbors.
In this time of pandemic, there have been diverse acts of kindness and courage by many in helping others and saving lives. This story of Maui taking on the fire next door adds another chapter to the year of the ordinary Filipino doing extraordinary things.
* * *
Ed Garcia is a framer of the 1987 Constitution.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.