Fires blazing in Cochabamba

What's wrong with the picture above - besides the fact that my hair is way to long and I seem to be expressing a little too much joy whilst mincing beef fresh from the butcher?

Well, if you look past my expression of pure happiness (I'm easily pleased) and through the window you'll see that there is a fire-engine parked on the street.

Around midday yesterday we noticed that there was a huge chimney of smoke rising high only just beyond the trees of my host's garden. We went outside on the balcony and saw that there was a very aggressive, raging fire in the neighboring, empty lot of land.

We then watched the ridiculous spectacle that ensued.

The fire-engine (singular) arrived soon enough but when it did the firemen realised that they didn't haven much water in it. And of course there are no fire-hydrants around. Luckily the neighbor had an enormous swimming pool (above).

They brought a petrol-fueled water-pump but, of course, didn't have any fuel for it. Luckily my host had some in an emergency container and generously gave it to them. But then, instead of pumping the water directly onto the fire they decided to pump the water back to the fire-engine and then to the roaring fire. Genius, no?

[Below] My friends watching the show.

But then a stream of water, 10 metres high, spurted out of the hose and a few men collaborated to try to patch it up (below).

[Below] Soon after, a policeman helped one of the firemen back to the road-side. He slipped on the rocks and had fallen directly onto the fire. Luckily he was able to jump off quickly - as you do when you're IN A FIRE - and only hurt his shoulder and arm. No burns. But seeing that the fire department's ambulance didn't arrive until an hour later, he had to relax in the back of the police jeep in the meantime. We spoke to him for a while and brought him water to drink as he rested.

They eventually did manage to extinguish the fire after a few hours. An hour-and-a-half after they began the fire-fight a second fire-engine finally arrived. This one actually did have water. But they continued to drain water from the neighbors pool long after the fire was out - I think they saw it as a good opportunity to "fill-up."

[Below] The view through the emanating heat of the flames.

[Below] The fire was covered in the newspaper today: "2 hectares of grassland burn in Aranjuez." It was interesting to read how they simply made up facts they didn't know. According to the article, the fireman didn't fall but suffered from smoke inhalation.

After it all concluded we all wondered what they would have and could have done if they didn't have access to the neighbor's pool and my host's petrol. Nothing, I guess. But doing nothing is a favorite past-time around here.

[I'm finally leaving my wonderful hospitality in Cochabamba tomorrow and heading to La Paz.]

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