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The bird might disagree, but something marvelous happened when a bizarre, scary grass fire flared days ago on a historic farm/retreat in the extreme northwestern Sonoma County hamlet of Annapolis.

Sister Julie DeRossi of Starcross shares that it was shortly before 5 p.m. last Wednesday when a large bird set down on a power line above a pasture.

By way of review, Starcross is the small, lay community that DeRossi, Brother Tolbert McCarroll and the late Sister Marti Aggeler brought to Sonoma County in 1976.

Among its good works: It took in babies born to mothers with HIV or AIDS, it created homes for children in Uganda and Romania who’d lost parents to AIDS and it produces some seriously good olive oil.

Back to the fire.

Sister Julie said in an email that the sizable bird caused the power line on which it landed to sag and touch a second line. That would have been no problem if the lines were properly insulated, but Sister Julie said they were old and frayed.

Zap! A spark set the poor bird on fire. It dropped to the ground and quickly ignited the dry grass of the pasture.

This is important: Sister Julie learned these details after the fact. When the fire first flared, no one at Starcross saw it.

The first person to notice the flames was a fellow who happened to be driving by Starcross, tucked into one of the most remote corners of the county.

That person was Chris Aitchison — assistant chief of the North Sonoma Coast Fire Protection District. He was driving a fire engine.

Apparently only moments after the fire started, Aitchison spotted it as he drove from the Annapolis station toward the CalFire station on The Sea Ranch for a weekly training of his fire company’s volunteers.

“It was just perfect that I was in the engine that I was in,” he said. Had he been in a vehicle much lower to the ground, he figures, he might not have seen the spot of fire at Starcross.

He called it in as he drove toward the spreading flames. Quickly, he was joined by other North Sonoma Coast volunteers already mobile because of the scheduled 5 p.m. training.

Together they halted the potentially disastrous fire, confining it to a few acres safely away from the farmhouse, chapel, barn, monastic residence and olive trees of Starcross.

Marveled Sister Julie, “What are the odds that a large bird would land on that particular wire at the exact moment a firetruck was driving by and several other firetrucks were just down the road?

“Seems like our guardian angels were on duty.”

HHHHHH

SPEAKING OF UGANDA, 18 impoverished but sweetly singing kids from the East African nation are in Sebastopol, stepping back from a six-month American performance tour for TLC for their neglected teeth.

For two days, dentist Larry Ford, his wife, Gerry Reilly- Ford and his staff are cleaning and filling teeth of children in the Bridge of Hope choir.

None of the kids has ever been to a dentist in Uganda. To all of them, dental floss is an unaffordable luxury.

The kids are grateful, stoic.

“We did have a couple of cute little criers,” the dentist’s wife said. “Made me cry.”

Expect especially broad smiles when the children sing for the public at 10 a.m. Sunday at Bodega Bay Church and at 6 that evening at Petaluma Valley Baptist Church.

You can contact columnist Chris Smith at 707 521 5211 or chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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