Monday, August 24, 2009

Do You Know Where Your Fire Extinguisher Is?

Do you keep in regular contact with it? Give it a call now and then, just to make sure it’s still around and hasn’t departed in a huff because it feels unloved and unwanted?

Not me. I know where mine is, now that it needs to be replaced. I wasn’t so sure before. I knew we had one, of course we did, we’re big believers in safety, and in my case that’s generally an attitude that is best expressed in this manner: “I saw a fire extinguisher around here once, so I know it’s here. I’ll worry about finding it when I need it.”

There’s an obvious problem with my philosophy, which is that there’s really no time to look for a fire extinguisher when there’s a fire. Those suckers move fast.

I love fire. Bonfires. Camp fires. Fireplace fires.

I loathe fire. Wild fires. Countryside decimating fires. House fires.

It’s all about the proper time and place, see?

I was enjoying a quiet time of lethargy yesterday, after having prepared potatoes for dinner and put them in the oven. Charming husband, my own personal hero, was grilling lamb on the cheapo Weber grill. He’d been outside watching it and reading, but came in to check on me. I distracted him with witty banter, and since I am irresistible his return to the outdoors was delayed.

Until something made him look back towards the door. Smoke, I think it was.
Smoke drifting in through the open doorway, billowing clouds of it.

He went running towards the back door and then yelled “Fire! Call 911!”

I, being rather slow to respond and not altogether bright in times of crisis, instead went to look at the fire, not that I thought he’d lie to me, but just to check, y’know, because why would we have a fire?

While I was still pondering the fire part of his message, and confirming that it was indeed a fire, leaping up against the siding right outside the back door, he came running past me again, fire extinguisher in hand, and put out the fire.

“Call 911,” he said again.

I looked around for my phone. Now, I was pretty sure it had been around somewhere, but where? The problem with cell phones is they tend to travel, sometimes on their own, as if they become impatient with one location and move themselves to another.

I found it, and called 911, and the nice lady on the phone asked me a list of questions. Yes, the fire was out, we thought, but it had been right in the area where there was a crawl space underneath the house. Yes, we just needed to be sure it was actually out, and not lurking underneath the house, ready to explode through the floor when we least expected it. Yes, we were safe at the moment. Yes, there was smoke in the house, and the color of the smoke was sort of . . . light smokish? Grey smoke color? (I’ve used the word smoke so much it sounds like a parody of itself.)

I disconnected, and heard sirens.

How embarrassing.

It’s not that I’m unfamiliar with sirens, but usually when I hear them it’s not because they’re racing to my house. I swept the hallway and went out the front door. Don’t ask me why I swept the hallway. There was a broom hanging around (at least I know where that is), and I just thought it’d be nice if I swept up a bit on my way out the door. I enticed the dogs, who had been watching events transpire from a corner of the yard, with doggie treats to get them inside and upstairs, where they could be locked away so they wouldn’t feel encouraged to welcome the firemen. I’m not sure that would have been at all welcome.

I stood out on our front lawn. A couple with their little boy were across the street, taking him out for a walk. They called over to me, “Is that for you?”

“Yes,” I had to admit, “It is.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, we just need to be sure the fire’s out.”

“So we might get to see a fire engine!”

“Yes,” I said, “Any time now there’ll be a fire engine.” I knew this because the sirens were getting closer.

They turned their little boy towards the street so he’d have a good view of the pretty fire engine when it came rolling up.

A neighbor from an upstairs next door window called down to me, “Are you okay?”

“Yes, we’re fine. Just a small fire.” He started to say he’d been looking out his back window and had seen smoke, but then the fire engine turned into our street, sirens blaring, and it was time for more neighbors to come out of their houses and stare.

That’s what people do, after all, when there’s an exciting neighborhood event going on.

As embarrassing as it is, it’s not nearly as embarrassing when the fire gets bored with the crawl space and reaches up through the floorboards and starts in on all the flammables we have laying around, such as ourselves and our dogs.

What nice fireman. Two of them came in, and while one took heat measurements of the floor the other looked at the crawlspace area in back. Out front, another fireman set up a fan. There was a bit of smoke billowing around after all.

The hall closet was cleaned out, since the crawlspace entrance was in the floor there. Just like making sure you have clean underwear on in case of an accident, make sure your closet is clean just in case firemen need to get to your crawlspace. Another life lesson.

They looked, they measured, they used the water hose in the crawl space. And the temperature of the floor started to go down, which is generally a good thing.

We were pronounced safe from fire, at least until we start another one. We don’t have any other plans for that at this time.

Oh, and the lamb! The lamb was fine. The fire hadn’t been the grill itself, it had been the chimney starter, which became overexcited, as near as I can tell. Charming husband felt bad about the entire incident, but I told him not to – there’s a reason they call these things accidents instead of arson.
Now if it had been arson, he and I would be having a little talk, but as it is, I was thoroughly impressed with the speed with which he responded and put the damn thing out. That, and he knew right where to find the fire extinguisher. While my brain was still processing the idea of a fire he was already putting it out. Isn’t he wonderful? And in the future, the grill will be kept much farther from the house.

I watched the fireman pack up their truck, at least for a little while, but the crowds of neighbors began to be a bit daunting, standing around as they were, wondering if we were a danger to their houses, and so I went back inside. Charming husband didn’t even want to be seen out the front, so embarrassed was he at the possibility of answering questions like, “What happened? How did it start?”

We are all fine, though I’m not sure my heart resumed its regular rhythm for a couple of hours. The house is fine, except for a bit of scorched siding and a few needed replacement parts.

So where’s your fire extinguisher?

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