Friday, 9 September 2011

Ahh! Death... I Was Expecting You.

It's the fate of many a news cameraman. Just as you plonk your arse down for a meal at home the phone rings, and before you have swallowed the first forkful you're on the road heading towards what was described as... "Large fire.. explosions.. local airport.." Nothing more was known, just reports from locals in the area that something big was happening at the airport, and it had only just happened.

Filming in fading light...

Having left the Missus with her head in her hands again, i hurtled towards Lasham Airfield in Hampshire thinking the worst. Now Lasham isn't a major airfield, but does handle large passenger aircraft that fly into the airport for maintenance and suchlike. It didn't bode well... Looking at the large toxic plume of smoke from over 10 miles away as i raced towards the scene made my heart sink and various probable causes infiltrate my thoughts.

As it turned out, the disaster i was expecting turned out to be not of an aeronautical nature, with no loss of life. As a nervous flier myself, i wouldn't wish that scenario on anyone. As it was, the fire services from three counties found themselves battling a large inferno fuelled by around 300 tonnes of recycled batteries... batteries that go bang when hot, sending them arcing over the fading evening sky like a fireworks display. It was quite a sight, let me assure you. Having settled myself and my camera into a safe spot where being brained by a flying molten battery was of no risk, i took to filming what i could as the sun disappeared, taking the light with it, to be replaced by a soft orange glow from the fire...

Filming in the dark...
As i was thinking artful soft glows in the distance, i knew there to be many brave men and women of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service battling the intense heat and poisonous smoke from the battery warehouse, still occasionally spitting hot missiles from within. But for me, the show was over. Darkness finally took a grip and nothing more could be seen from that distance. So we took to the airwaves, conducted interviews and beamed out the news from our satellite truck, and when not bumping into each other in the dark, we sat and watched the glowing horizon, feeling sorry for the firefighters who had to deal with it.

Now don't get me wrong, i live for a story with a little bit of adrenaline. Things that go bang make me go all weak at the knees. Anything to avoid the court steps. But expecting a plane crash with all the misery that entails, it was a relief to be confronted by destruction that involved no loss of life, just the loss of an awful lot of money and someones livelihood.

That i can deal with. Buildings can be rebuilt, business insurance can be claimed and lives carried on with, however hard the future. And, as the chief fire officer on the scene remarked, Life goes on. I thought about that as i lumped my kit around a dark field as i waited to go live into the late evening bulletin. Life does go on... But my dinner? well, that was cremated with due reverence in the oven at home as it lay in the warming tray, where every ounce of moisture was sucked from it leaving something resembling an old mans scrotum. But at least everyone got to go home.

Sweaty fire chiefs... better things to be getting on with.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter