Stop, drop, and find the fire extinguisher?
If it’s not one thing, it’s another. This week has been dramatic to dizzying extremes. And I thought high school drama ended with, well, high school!
One friend admitted to having called off his engagement to the girl he’s been with for nine years. He called it off two months before his wedding no less. If that wasn’t shocking enough, another friend admitted to having a panic attack that caused her parents to demand she call off her own wedding or else lose her parents. I have no idea how I would react to that, but the ruffled feathers were finally calmed, and the wedding is officially on. That’s good cause it’s in two weeks!
Then there’s me. Amazon said they didn’t want me. China does. I’ve started the process for getting my Visa. I picked up Chinese For Dummies at work for $5.99. I’m almost finished with the book Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost. It’s a great book that deals with the more practical side of a Westerner going to China for any length of time. (He writes excessively about the pollution and over-population as well as the ridiculous amount of construction.)
You’d think that would be enough for a week to be a little overwhelming.
But no. We had to go one step further… whether we wanted to or not.
My father woke me up this morning at 4 a.m. by rushing into my room demanding, “Get out of bed. There’s smoke in the house. You have to help mom find the fire extinguisher.” I’ve never woken up so fast in my life. I jumped out of bed, slipped on my house shoes and raced down to the kitchen to find mom frantically searching the broom closet for the extinguisher. Dad was yelling for it as smoke billowed in from the garage, and I opened the pantry door and turned on the light. There it was, gleaming in all its red, pristine glory.
Mom grabbed it and raced downstairs to give it to dad. He yelled at us to let the dogs outside, so I threw open the back door. Then he yelled at us to call 911. I knew it was bad then. I grabbed mom’s cell phone and called that fateful number.
It always brings back memories of Alfalfa for me. “Quick! What’s the number for 911?” I can remember the fire truck scene from that movie, too. The kids holding onto the fire hose as it flailed wildly into the air. It’s a freaky thought that that could happen to your own house.
As I called 911, mom finished getting the dogs outside and dad ran into the garage, letting a billowing cloud of acrid, black smoke into the house. I immediately started coughing as I got a recording.
You read that right. A recording.
“Thank you for calling 911 emergency services. Your call is important to us…” Click.
Then the operator came on. I gave my name and address and told the immediate problem as I’d been coached to do back in middle school when they made us draw out maps of our houses to figure out the best plans of escape in case of a fire and a rendezvous point for all family members. The operator tried to ascertain where I was located and what the real problem was. All of that was information I’d oh-so-helpfully supplied in my 30 second intro to the problem.
Then I was transferred to Rural Metro, the local fire department for the city, and I immediately answered to my address and the situation again. I then explained we lived less than a minute away from the local volunteer fire department so that we could hopefully have people dispatched faster. It felt like forever as I talked to the dispatcher. I got my parents out of the house, and then dad went racing back inside to see if he could find the fire and get some shoes on. Mom tore off after him trying to get him back outside. I was left waiting as I finally heard the blessed sound of sirens.
By the end of it, we had three fire trucks, two local utility trucks, and an ambulance all packed into our little back road. Not to mention the cars of several of the firemen crowding our neighbor’s yard.
I won’t give you all the details of the scary moments as the firemen griped about not having an engine on the way to help put out the fire or the scene of the firemen running a hose into our house and down the stairs to the garage door. Suffice it to say, it was as good as, if not better than, a movie. I was afraid, my mom was afraid, and dad was talking a mile a minute, trying to explain what he’d hit with the fire extinguisher and how it might be an electrical fire.
The smoke smelled off, so I believed him.
Eventually we found out that dad actually had put out the fire. He hit two little spots of fire in the garage, but it let out a ton of smoke. The fire marshall was called in to examine the scene and see what was going on. They turned on fans to suck the smoke out of the house. And the carbon monoxide levels in the house were up to 90, and my room was the second worst after the garage. (Probably because it’s one of the two rooms over the garage!)
Two hours after I woke up, the firemen finally packed up their things and left. Our neighbors had gone back to bed, and we were allowed back into our home where we found the stench almost unbearable.
Conclusion? It was an electrical fire. One of dad’s small vacuum cleaners caught fire and burned into smithereens. That caught dad’s super expensive voltage meter on fire, and it’s charred beyond use. And from there, the gas canister caught fire.
That’s right. The gas canister. Where dad generally stores at least a gallon of gas in case of emergencies. But two days ago, he emptied the entire five gallon canister into his lawn mower instead of saving some. If he hadn’t, I’m pretty sure my room would have been in flames from the explosion of electrical fire and gas combined.
So we’re convinced that God was looking out for us. And I am very thankful for my father’s sensitive nose because he’s the only one who woke up. Our carbon monoxide alarm and smoke detectors never went off, and the dogs didn’t even bark.
I’m learning that one of the best ways to motivate myself towards spring cleaning is a house fire. And the last place you want to be put on hold? Emergency services.