Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Part III: The Incident (Final)

This is the last installment of The Incident. Click here for Part I and here for Part II.  But wait there's more!  It's been a crazy year.

After hitting the keypad's panic button, I grabbed the land line phone.  ADT will certainly be calling, I thought. 

"Chris!  Chris!  Get out!"  I said.   But the screech of fire, enh...enh...fire! added to the already overbearing siren from the smoke detectors made me wonder if he could even hear me.  Where was he?

"Chris!"  I said one more time before heading out the door to the garage.  I couldn't  hear the phone from inside.  I opened the bay while trying to get a dial tone on the phone.  Why is the phone not working?  Of all times!

"Call 911!"  I heard Chris yelling, still inside.

I assumed ADT would be calling emergency services for us. (I later realized that was a bad assumption on my part; hence my looking for a replacement service - another story.)

Pacing around out front, still trying to get the phone to work, I remembered Bandit being tethered to a chain in the backyard.  I thought about the chimney being so close to the upstairs' furnace and the gas line: What if the fire gets to the gas?  It'll explode...raining down balls of flames? Poor Bandit!  I ran in the back to get him.

As I was hitching him onto his leash - I must've grabbed his lead from the kitchen without thinking - I was finally able to get a dial tone.

"911, what's your emergency?"  The operator asked.

"I have a chimney fire."

By the time the fire engines arrived Chris had emerged from the house - dressed and nursing a burnt finger from trying to open the scalding fireplace screen.

A swarm of emergency vehicles converged and tried to wedge their way down our tiny street.   A police car's strobe threw a scatter shot of blue across the neighborhood.  An ambulance blocked the top of the hill.  Parked beside the house, a ladder truck's engine hummed and added a stream of red to the light show.  My neighbor peered out her bedroom window.

I told a man looking in charge, from shine on his badge, what was going on and he and another guy went inside. 

About five minutes later the fire chief, as I learned, came back out.  He stood on the front porch and asked who owned the house.  Chris and the EMT sat on the granite steps.  I was caught up in Chris refusing to go to the hospital: "I'll be fine.  I'll just ice it,"  he told the EMT.  The police officer beside them jotted down their conversation.   My mind felt like it was swimming in pancake syrup, a slow ooze of thoughts bubbled here and there.  My hands shook so bad I swore they were sending out Morse code. 

"Who's the owner?"  The cop looking up from his notepad repeated for the chief.

"Oh, I am."  I said as did Chris.  "We both are."

The fire chief slipped past Chris, left the EMT to examine his finger.  He walked down the two-step.  God, what's he going to tell me?

"Your damper broke, trapping the smoke in the house.  Luckily, the fire was contained to the pit.  There's just a lot of smoke - no fire damage," he told me.

I let out a sigh of relief.  "Thank God."

"We opened all the windows," he went on. "The fire's still going but is fine.  Just let it burnt out tonight.  It's perfectly safe."

I went to Chris, put my hand on his shoulder.  I wanted to cry.  I watched as the firemen took out an industrial fan.  They placed it in the garage, on the interior landing and with the generator from the truck began to draw out as much smoke as they could.

Next, I was prevented from collapsing into a puddle of relief by an interruption from the fire chief who wanted to take me inside and show me the damper. 

I followed him upstairs and on the hearth sat the guts of the metal contraption.  He proceeded to tell me that it had crumbled and fell inside the pit when they tried to open it.  He pointed to a busted nail.  "They should have installed this side with the same screw that's over here," he said pointing to latch's opposite end.   "It snapped from metal fatigue...from over the years."

I didn't care.  It could have been fastened with toothpicks and thread; as long as there was no fire damage, I was happy.  I smiled.  I thanked him for the fifteenth time.  I walked him down the stairs, asked him if he wanted a water.  A soda?  A bottle of champagne?  I was so appreciative that I would have withdrawn from my 401K and sent his daughter to college if he asked.  

He didn't want any water, nor did he want any bubbly.   

I wasn't thinking clear.

It took a good week, and a dousing or two of Chris' thorough housecleaning but the smoke odor finally went away.  I didn't mind it though.  The smell of a camp fire can be comforting.


Thomas (Tom) Rimington said...

Thank goodness... Glad to hear you are all safe and the damage was minimal...

Jim said...

Holy smoke! That was a close one Rick! Good that you guys are fine.

Sean said...

I'm so glad you are all safe and sound and your home wasn't more damaged. Very scary.

Peter said...

You know how to keep us on the tip of our stools, Rick!

Thank the Godess you're all alright.

CJ/Rick said...

I am so you guys and Bandit are okay!

Greg said...

Yikes!! Thank goodness all three of you are fine.

Ur-spo said...

despite the angst, this was a 'thumping good read'.

Blobby said...

What a frightening story. Fire scares the crap out of me on so many levels.

As for ADT - I have them and HATE them. They have never ever ever followed through when needed. And even their secondary call(my husband is the primary) is 90 minutes after they can't reach him.

Their first question to me? "do you want us to call the police?"

Are you fucking kidding me??

Sorry - but so glad all of you are alright.

the cajun said...

Had fireplaces in 3 home, NY, NJ, DE and while they are very romantic, they were the single most cause of anxiety and stress. I would find myself waking up in the middle of the night to check at the fire was out.

Glad all went well, aside from the Chris and his burned hand.

Stew said...

So glad everything is OK.
I know from experience that smoke can take months if not years to clean out of carpets and such. Hope yours clears out quick.

tornwordo said...

You're lucky! Smoke kills more people than fire. Glad everything turned out okay. Oh and stop watching Foxnews, lol.