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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Weekend to Remember: Fire!

I've seen a lot things over the years while flagging and just when I thought I've seen it all Sunday happens.

I was outside Dallas, Texas working the SKUSA Spring Nationals when what was a small fire turned into a rather large one. A trailer had caught fire and flames were now visible from where I was standing. To make matters worse winds were 20+mph and the area was really dry. Quickly, the on track activity stopped and the drivers on track had no idea why the red flag was out until there looked over the grid area and saw plumes of black smoke. The picture was taken from the score tower and was something no one had seen before.

Because of the fuel in the pits this was an extremely dangerous situation. As mentioned, the winds were high so there was a risk that this fire could quickly spread from pit to pit. Because of this the order was given to evacuate the entire paddock area to the race track opposite the race track.

I had been talking to the drivers who had been on track but when I heard people weren't really moving out of the pit area I went over there to start ushering people towards turn one.

So I thought I've done it all at a race track but as I started using my yellow flag to point the way we wanted people to move was odd. It's just something I never thought I'd do, to be a director of foot traffic during an emergency. Also, I was very forceful with my voice imploring people to move. Well, I say forceful but I also was saying, "please" as well because people wanted to take photos of the fire.

The delay was about 45 minutes and from the photo to the left you can see that a lot of people had invaded my "office" and not only people, but there were also quite a few dogs. Again, this was something so different, so unexpected that the only way to describe the feeling was odd.

Since I had a radio on it seemed every other person wanted an update to which I just mentioned where people already knew. And when people asked, "When can we go back?" I could only mention, "When the all clear is given."

I write about this because I am amazed how fast my, "Alias" changed from being the chief starter to a helper in getting people out of a potentially dangerous situation. It was seamless and felt natural. Maybe the Alias didn't change all that much because I flag to keep those who race safe and this evacuation was just an extension of my already existing Alias.

The all clear was eventually given and the track became empty minus the 40 karts that were about to go racing again. And when the race began the oddity of the fire and the amount of people on track were quickly pushed aside because it was time to focus again.


Photo by On Track Promotions
This event marked the last time in 2014 that I plan to use my autism awareness checkered flags and using them on the track surface, well, I think the creators of the checkered flags got it wrong because the blue/white look so much better as this photo, I hope, shows you.

As with the USAC .25 races, we did a raffle and over the two days $1,100 was raised making the overall project of The Blue Wave bringing in a number north of $3,400! This year's planning was very short notice so next year, well, I think next year The Blue Wave will shatter this year's total! Until then though the memories of the SKUSA Spring Nationals will not be forgotten for a long time, from the fire, to almost being hit (it was VERY close) to the intense on track action it was one for the ages.

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