Monday, August 29, 2011

Remain calm.

I have called the fire department three times in my life. Three times! But.

The first time was totally lame.

About 20 years ago, I saw huge, billowing, white clouds streaming up along the wall of the end unit of our row-house. Of course, I called the fire department. Turns out it was just the steam being vented from our hot-water-heated buildings. Oh. Yeah. Didn't know they needed that.

The second time, I was a fricking hero. Looking out my kitchen window while preparing supper, I noticed grey smoke (definitely not white, and definitely smoke), coming from my neighbour's kitchen window. I didn't call the fire department right away this time, not after my humiliating encounter with the fire department the previous time. Besides, this neighbour was a little flaky, so it could have been a massive offering of patchouli or pot, for all I knew.

But when it started wafting out the back door, I figured it was probably a good idea to call in the professionals. Turns out, no one was home; they had to bash down the door to get in. There was indeed a fire — in the oven where my neighbour had left a steak broiling when she popped out to the library. (Like I said: a little flaky.) She did thank me, but neither wine nor chocolate were included, so I'm not sure I would've called the fire department for her if it ever happened again. (JUST kidding!)

Today, when our own barbecue burst into flames and I was unable to turn off the propane, I again called in the big guys.
This is pretty much exactly what it looked like,
but closer to the house. Like, right against the house.
(This fire in this photo was at my son's school a few months ago.)
Three fire trucks pulled up to our house and half a dozen men strode into the back yard. The flames had, of course, died down by then, but I was still terrified that the residual heat could cause the propane tank to explode. (Propane is extremely explosive, you know.)

The big, burly firefighter used his shoulder-mounted walkie-talkie to call back to the station and tell them they wouldn't need any reinforcements. Then he sauntered over to the barbecue, reached into the cabinet and told me, "It's already off."

"No," I insisted, "It's jammed." I think the fire may have burned up the rest of the fuel in the tank.

So he tried again and confirmed that, yes, the valve was defective. Then he simply turned the other knob — the one I've never touched because of my conviction that to do so would send invisible clouds of explosive gas billowing across the yard.

Wrong: it is a safety valve and automatically shuts off the gas as soon as it is loosened. D'oh!

As he lifted the propane tank away from the heat, the firefighter assured me that the same thing had happened to him. (I'll bet he says that to all the ladies.) He suggested we keep the barbecue four feet away from the house.

So that was the beginning of my Monday evening. So. A couple of new items on my to-do list:

  • Buy a BIG fire extinguisher (we left our previous one in Colorado)
  • Clean the grease out of the barbecue.
  • Move the entire unit further away from the house or at least get functioning wheels on it (the movers broke the wheels when they brought it from Colorado).

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