Friday, September 23, 2011

Fire in a Village 1969

1.As we sat waiting for public transport to take us on to Panguma (a village about 26 miles from our house) a fire started in the palm leaf roof of a house behind us. Here a man on the right rushes with bucket to get water. Most likely the fire was started by a spark from a nearby kitchen.

2.As the fire worsened, men from the village got a ladder to try and throw water directly on the fire. Men rushed to get buckets of water from a nearby stream and a 'bucket brigade' was established.

3. This view from the back of the house shows the roof fire progressing as villagers attempt as best they can to put it out.
4.Here the roof fire is nearly complete, with the wooden rafters showing but most of the roof now gone. Thankfully no one was hurt in this fire.

Although thatched roofs were common in small villages they were becoming less common. The "tin" roofs required less care, less worries, and lasted longer. The so-called thatch usually came from the local palm trees (raffia palm)and were labor intensive requiring cutting, shaping and then roofing. The process took time. They worked well and were inexpensive so it made sense for the upcountry villages to have this traditional roofing. The tin roofing was expensive for the average villager. By the late 1960's however tin roofs were common and even the villages were becoming inundated with them. The current photos above show one reason why the "thatched" roofs could be problematic. It was an early morning that we headed out from Kenema as I remember it to visit the new Peace Corps designed Catholic Mission Hospital in Panguma. I think we stopped in this small village to exchange vehicles (public transport) and as we sat waiting for our additional transport a commotion broke out behind us as sparks from a nearby kitchen fire landed on a roof and soon started to smoke and then ignite. Efforts were vigorous, but ineffective at putting the roof fire out, and by the end the roof was gone. circa 1969 between Kenema and Panguma.

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