Today is the first anniversary of last year's fire
. I'm not normally the sort to keep re-visiting the past like this, but I'm hoping that it'll make you, the readers, pause to think about fire safety in your own houses.
For those of you who weren't on my Friends list then, we had a fire in our townhouse that was serious enough to force us to move out for a month while the entire townhouse was re-done. The fire was (apparently) an electrical fault that started in the smaller bedroom, the one where our three-year-old son normally slept. Fortunately, he was staying with his grandfather that night; the thought of what would have happened if he hadn't
been is enough to keep giving me nightmares.
About 4am, we were woken up in the middle of the night by odd noises (that we later realised was glass breaking from the heat) and by the power tripping. We went out to investigate, opened the bedroom door ... and saw a ceiling-high fire in the corner of the bedroom.
We rushed out and started looking for the fire extinguisher, which we knew we had somewhere. Fortunately, we found it, and dashed around to the side of the house for easier access to the fire.
By that time, it had filled the entire room.
Our neighbour had awoken, and she'd brought her fire extinguisher out. Using both extinguishers and the garden hose (which hardly helped at all), we managed to put the fire out. From the time we discovered it to the time it was completely put out was, I would guess, less than five minutes, yet it managed to destroy the entire bedroom.
When we tried to go into the house, we discovered that it was filled with a choking black smoke. It was a good half-hour before we could even enter. When it was light enough for us to examine the devastation, we realised the full extent of it. The fire itself had largely been confined to the bedroom, but that room had contained large numbers of plastic toys and such objects. They'd melted and sent clouds of black smoke through the entire house. Everything, from the main bedroom to the upstairs loft where the computers were kept, was covered with a layer of greasy black soot.
Of course, the worst part was when, a little later, we discovered the stiff body of our cat, Hobbes, under a table upstairs. She'd been fast asleep and had been smothered by the smoke. She hadn't even woken up: her body was in the same position she always slept in.
This photo is of the bedroom post-fire. The fire itself started in the left-hand corner, right behind the bunk beds. The doll on the left-hand side of the picture managed to survive the fire, amazingly enough, by being wedged in the middle of the toys under the bed. Right after we'd put the fire out, we heard strangely distorted singing from inside the bedroom; once we investigated further, we found the doll, the singing obviously triggered by the heat. It continued to sing "Ashes, ashes, all fall down" eerily the whole day, until the battery eventually died:( More photos, cut because there are quite a few of them!Collapse )
The one good thing about all of this was the amount of support we received from everyone, both online and offline, family and friends. Especially kind was fsnut
, who was in Botswana at the time, read our posts about the drama, and immediately phoned up to offer us his place to stay for a month! Without him, the aftermath would have been a lot more uncomfortable and difficult. Thanks again, fsnut
What did we learn from all of this? Firstly, it can happen to anyone. I'd always thought that it was the sort of thing that could never happen to me - after all, we live in a modern townhouse, not a farm or an older house. As we discovered, that's not true. It could, and did
happen to us.
Secondly, fire extinguishers can save the day. If we hadn't been able to put the fire out quickly, it would most likely have consumed everything we owned. We would have lost everything.
My purpose in making this post? It's to ask everyone who's reading this to give a moment's thought to what you'd do in this situation. What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night to discover a fire? Have you got fire extinguishers handy? Are they regularly serviced and useable (ours was years old, and we were damn lucky that it worked)? How will you get out of the house in case of an emergency? Most important: do your children know what to do in the case of a fire - do they know where the house keys are kept and how to use a fire extinguisher?
If you've gotten this far, please learn from this story. Take a few minutes to think about how you'd deal with the situation if it arose and if there's anything you could do to prevent it. We were lucky - while Hobbes' death was a sad loss for us, none of us were hurt and most of our possessions were okay (if rather filthy) - but we wouldn't have been so fortunate if we hadn't been lucky enough to have the outdated fire extinguisher work and have a neighbour who could assist us. Our (relative) good fortune was due to luck rather than to anything else, a situation that has changed considerably since due to us being far more alert and aware of fire-related safety procedures; I daresay we're far better equipped right now to deal with it, although I'd rather not put that to the test!
By the way, there are a few very useful tips in claidheamhmor
's post about the same subject
, including a link to a gallery of more pictures, if you're feeling suitably morbid.
I'm making this post public because I'd like more people to read it. Even if it only inspires a few people to give their fire safety some thought, I'll be happy.
Current Mood: determined
Current Music: "Rae's Arrival/Opening Titles" - Medicine Man (Jerry Goldsmith)