If that headline sounds melodramatic, it’s simply mimicking press releases from the media in similar situations, except I’ve used the government’s new designations regarding who they think are “essential” and “nonessential.” I think we proved we’re essential to ourselves, no matter what anyone who claims they’re more “essential” says.
Yesterday, my husband, one of my neighbors, and I battled and extinguished a dangerous in-town brush fire. Below is my first-person account of the events (as posted to Facebook within the hour), as well as my Right-to-Know/91-A Request filed with the Manchester Police Department today to get copies of the body camera footage that was recorded by some of the officers at the scene.
I am very grateful we were able to take care of the immediate danger before anyone got hurt or any real property was destroyed. I hope the City makes a better effort to clear-out Gossler Park’s brush. A few years ago, kids were regularly setting small fires back there, but this was the first one I’ve seen in years. Glad it worked out!
From our kitchen, I spot Louis running past the living room windows towards our garage. I open the door and stick out my head, “Where you running to?” He’s already grabbing a couple of shovels. “There’s a fire at Brinck’s house!”
The minute he says it, I smell it.
“OK, I’ll grab our extinguishers and meet you there.” I race around the house, collecting extinguishers from my kitchen and basement, and an extra one I keep stashed. I’m in house PJs and an apron, but I grab my belt and click on my gun. I have no idea what’s waiting out there. Proper preparation, what what.
The fire is burning behind Brinck’s house, on the school’s property, a couple of feet from the wooden fence, which, since it’s old and dry, would light up like a matchbox. The brush is burning maybe a couple of feet, one foot, from the fence. It is TINDER back there, with overgrown brush, fallen trees, piles and piles of leaves. Two tween boys are throwing sand on the burning leaves. One yells, “We didn’t do it! We just saw the smoke.”
Louis is tossing sand on the flames with his shovel. Matt is using the sprinkler hose over the fence to try to dose some of the spreading flames. I pull the pin on one of the extinguishers and start spraying the base of the flames. (I was trained as a fire fighter in high school.) The smoke and white stuff blinds me, but I keep going. After a while, the kid grabs the extinguisher, and, as I am alarmed at how much the fire is now spreading, and how little defenses we have, I run back to our garage to grab two 5 gallon spring mountain water jugs and run back (I definitely got my workout today).
The fire is dead in several zones, but rekindling is several others. One particular pile of dead trees looks like a natural pyre, and so I use the other extinguisher on that.
Somewhere on one of my runs between the houses, an unmarked police car shows up. The officer in jeans and a black shirt with his badge on a thick chain around his neck starts walking onto Brinck’s property through the back gate.
“Excuse me, I don’t think you should do that. I don’t think the property owner would consent to that.” At this stage, I do not know that Brinck is actually at Whole Foods. “The fire isn’t on the property, it’s behind, on the school’s side.” He keeps walking down, almost behind the building. Loudly, I say, “Hey! You’d need to ask him first.” He comes back to the street.
“Why… does he have a gun?” I don’t respond. I am clearly opening carrying, so I just shrug. “Look, I don’t have time, I’ll ask him to come out.”
We fight the fire. A uniformed cop comes out back, and helps. The fire truck shows up just as the fire turns and is heading back down the hill, away from our properties. 3 more squad cars show up. The fire fighters head out back, pulling their hose past the pool area, but the police just mill around on the cul de sac.
The fire near Brinck’s fence is dead, the rest is under control, heading down the hill, where, I believe another fire truck is stationed. An officer starts asking me questions. I tell him I live next door. We chit chat a bit, then after I swear while recounting the situation, he says, “Oh, I need to let you know I’m wearing a body cam.”
“Yeah, you are,” I say with the cheekiest of grins. He looks confused. “That’s because of me,” I explain and stick out my hand. He’s wearing a mask. “I’m Carla Gericke.” He doesn’t take my hand but we half-heartedly elbow bump.
I ask the firefighters if there’s a way to get my personal extinguishers replaced, “You know, now that we’re just giving away free shit wily-nilly.” He is not amused, but says, “We don’t do that.”
When I head home, 4 officers are standing around near their cars on the street in front of my house. I walked over to say hi, introduce myself, and say, “It’s all under control now, we put out the fire, y’all can scoot on out of here.” The senior-seeming guy doesn’t really know what to do with that. The firemen unleash the fire hydrant at the end of the street and the road starts flooding with water. At least we now know it works! “It’s going to get wet here,” the officer says. “Yeah,” I say, “I’m heading home. Bye now!”
What can I say? Everyone was professional. They seemed amazed that we knew what to do and took care of it ourselves. When one started fronting about showing up to save us, I gave him a look, and he said, “Yeah, okay, you guys really took care of it before we got here.”
And that we did. Essentially.
I can still taste the soot, and I smell like a chimney, but all is well that ends well. Now, let’s end this bullshit lockdown, and let liberty rise!
Dear Manchester Police Department,
RE: Right to Know Request per RSA-91A
Pursuant to the Right to Know Law (RSA. 91-A), I am requesting public access or emailed electronic files of, within 5 business days, the governmental records reasonably described as follows:
All Manchester PD body cam footage from police officers as captured on May 14th, 2020 between approximately 13:30-15:00 at a brush fire event on Gossler School property, which was accesses from Durette Court, Manchester.
The following emergency vehicles were parked on Durette Court during that time: one black unmarked vehicle with two un-uniformed police officers (male and female), and three SUV cruisers. One firetruck was present.
I’m only seeking footage involving interactions between police officers and civilians during that time frame.
If you deny any portion of this request, please cite the specific exemption used to justify the denial to make each record, or part thereof, available for inspection.
Please let me know when these records are available for inspection or, preferably, you may email the records to: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will also submit this request via email directly.
Thank you for your lawful attention to this matter.
[Phone number and email redacted]
Per RSA 91-A, governmental records means “any information created, accepted, or obtained by, or on behalf of, any public body, or a quorum or majority thereof, or any public agency in furtherance of its official function. Without limiting the foregoing, the term “governmental records” includes any written communication or other information, whether in paper, electronic, or other physical form, received by a quorum or majority of a public body in furtherance of its official function, whether at a meeting or outside a meeting of the body. The term “governmental records” shall also include the term “public records.”