Wednesday, April 7, 2010

April 7, 2010

To celebrate opening day, with a 9-7 win over the Yankees, the entire Fenway went up in flames. I wasn't there, but I've seen many fires in the Fens and this one must have been spectacular.

The fire started on Monday around 7:00 PM in the reeds behind the Duck House on Agassiz Road, an open air office for derelicts and drug dealers. It leapt across the river, set the phragmities on the opposite bank on fire and raced downriver to the Boylston Street bridge consuming everything in its path.

A clerk who works at a store on Boylston Street by Fenway Park described the scene as a towering wall of flames stretching along the length of the lower Fens, obliterating the view of downtown. The traffic went nuts he said, everyone sure that the end of the world was at hand. And the fire engines, dozens of them, couldn't even get through until it was all over.

As I said I've seen, or been in, many fires in the Fens. They are always awesome and terrifying. In the spring the Muddy River is lined with stands of last year's phragmities reeds, 20-foot tall rolled paper tapers, blond bone-dry tinder just waiting to explode. A spark from a cigarette or crack pipe sets them aflame with a sweeping unsuspected violence. The only time I've ever seen a mushroom cloud, the sort that forms after dropping an atom bomb, was over one of these wild fires. That's how violent they are. Plus they can move faster than a race car and turn on a dime.

I was photographing one of these fires, at what I thought was a safe distance, when it suddenly turned and started racing straight toward me. I ran like I've never run before or since and just made it beyond its fiery grasp. Behind me it lept the path along the river, set the community compost pile on fire, then a fallout of papery white ash sifted down.

Fortunately our prevailing winds are from the west or the gardens would have burned long ago. The fire, therefore, often tries to leap the river igniting the stands of reeds on the opposite bank along the Fenway. I remember a fire that was stopped just short of the Boston fire alarm headquarters.

Today the smell of ash, mud and pollen mingled in the air. After weeks of flood we've now had fire. Months of cold and today it hits 90°. The gardens were quiet and deserted. It was a good day.

Image ... Following the fire.

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