It was an extremely windy and warm Florida afternoon. A good day for me to be sitting on the ground. There is no need to jump in stupid air currents. Been there, done that. 4 years of a skydiving layoff, because I made a poor decision to jump in high gusty winds, has taught me a valuable lesson. Nowadays, I tend to be a bit over-cautious when it comes to the weather conditions. I need to get my nerve back a bit, I think. Yet my aching shoulder is a persistent reminder of past choices.
As with many windy days here at the drop zone, I find numerous things to keep myself occupied. Today, whilst sitting in the trailer reading, I saw several fire trucks pull in to the parking lot. How strange! No sirens or flashing lights to alert me, no distress signals from fellow skydivers. Rather, it was the sound of the large diesel engine which caused me to look up in time. Of course, curiosity peaked my interest and I grabbed our beautiful 300mm telephoto lens to see what interesting images I could capture.
In all my 20 years of skydiving, I’ve never been witness to a landing area set ablaze as it was here in Zhills. With drier than dry grass and exorbitant gusting northerlys, a spark had somehow managed to set ablaze 1/4 of the landing area, rapidly making it’s way towards the dz trailers and surrounding tree-line. Five fire trucks were actively drenching the burnt areas in the hopes of distinguishing small potential flare-ups due to the strong winds. I somehow had missed the high flames as they roared across the landing area. Instead, I was observing the last remaining flashes of flame. Still pretty impressive!
The acrid smell of charred grass enveloped my senses. It smelled like a gigantic bonfire! So happy we weren’t downwind of the rampant flames. Thankfully, the fires didn’t create any other damage than to the grass. I can only imagine the visuals in freefall of the charcoal area. Luckily, the trailers and forest were protected from harm’s way. Considering the wind gusts, this is but a small miracle!