Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times...

One can pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind. ~Malayan Proverb

Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls. ~David Thomas

You ever have one of those days that really just sucks? Where nothing goes right and you keep thinking: it can't get any worse?

I'm here to to tell you that it can. OTOH, if you look closely enough, you can often find the good inside.

Yesterday was a really awful day. But my family and I were truly blessed.

Those of you on Facebook already know what the worst part was. Here's the story behind it.

Sunday, we'd let the fire go out. We were pretty much out of wood to burn -- left with only pieces that were too big to fit and needed splitting. DH didn't want to do that, and rumor has it that it IS spring, so we figured we'd just heat with oil from now on.

Monday morning was the coldest morning we've had in I don't know how long. Frigid temps, extremely high winds... brrr... DD asked if I would PLEASE build a fire, because she was cold (we get spoiled--the stove keeps it in the mid-to-high 70s during the winter, and I won't run the oil heat that warm). So... I went out, chopped wood and built a fire. Around lunch time, after eating, we ran errands and were gone for about two hours. And, yes, we left the stove burning.

We got home, she went upstairs to do school, I called my mom (who ended with, "I hope things get better." in a moment of irony) and then worked for a bit. At 4:00, the fire had burned down, so I loaded up the stove with wood, and then sat on the floor in front of it with Dakota. A moment later I heard a crackling sound, a "whoosh!!" and then roaring in my chimney. Outside, there was so much smoke, I couldn't even see my lawn. I yelled at DD to grab the dog and get outside. Next thing I knew, my neighbor is beating on my door, his phone in hand.

"Your chimney is on fire! I've already called the fire department."

Thank God (and truthfully, God was hanging out with my family yesterday... just saying) he did. I knew something was wrong, but my brain hadn't put all the pieces together yet. I would probably have called my DH first.

"Honey, there's a roaring in the chimney and smoke pouring out. Should I worry?"

I don't panic under pressure. Can you tell?

And, actually, I did call DH to tell him that we had a chimney fire.

"Hi. Hey, the chimney's on fire. But don't worry, the fire dept's on their way."

Next thing I knew, my SIL is tearing down the road in her truck. She jumps out, brandishing two home fire extinguishers.

"DH called and said for me to grab them and head over. Do you know how to use them?"

I opted to wait for the fire dept, though I did dump two pitchers of water over the fire in the stove, and shut it down. Then I threw my laptop and purse into the truck, just in case. I have my priorities.

A fire SUV showed up and the guy came inside to assess the damage. Behind him were two fire engines and two cop cars (why cop cars? I'm still stymied). Then another fire engine and another SUV and a third cop car.

I let them do their thing and stood outside watching flames shooting out of my chimney. And, yes, I wanted to take pictures. But my camera was dead. Sorry. It was pretty spectacular.

Dd's friend, Bugsy's, mom came running down the road. She saw me, grabbed me and squeezed.

"I saw the engines, looked outside and saw smoke pouring off your roof!"

And, no, the house wasn't on fire, but the wind was whipping all the smoke out of the chimney, and it did look like it was on fire.

She took DD and Dd home with her. DD was shaking and her teeth were chattering and she was a wreck. Never to let a homeschooling moment pass, I said:

"That's from the adrenaline. Remember in science when they talked about it and said it helped us be strong in dangerous situations -- fight or flight?"

Yep, that's really what I did.

In any case, after 90 mins or so, they had the fire under control. Thankfully, they didn't have to shoot water down the chimney. They dropped some kind of "bomb" down a few times (stunk to high heaven), and used retardant, which they actually shot up from the bottom.

The took off our mantle and cut a hole in the wall to check if everything was out. They have these nifty thermal cameras to check for hot spots in the wall, but we were clear. They had closed all the doors in the house (bless them!!) so only the downstairs and the stairs were a mess from the powder and ash.

Yes, we had MASSIVE creosote buildup. Ironically, the fire chief thinks it's because of the work we had done on our chimney this year. We had it cleaned and capped, and he said the cap was far too short and inhibited the draft. We've never had a creosote problem before.

Clean up was fun. Ha. But the firemen were unbelievably considerate. They took my pictures off the wall and moved them, and the covered what the could with tarps. It could have been far worse.

Well... actually, had it happened when I was out on errands, it could have burned the house down.

So see... blessed. Truly. Everything just fell into place. Me being home. My neighbor driving by. The fire dept being so close (and available). The firemen being so thoughtful. The only structural damage was to the chimney itself (and a little to the wall, but that's easy to fix.

And, hey -- looks like DH will finally get that log mantle he's been wanting!!

A picture of the aftermath (when I was able to charge my camera) -- do you see? They didn't even break my frog!! I love the firemen. I am baking cookies today and bringing them by. Awesome guys.

And that was my day. How was yours?



Maria Zannini said...

Oh, Marianne. How terrible!
I'm glad it wasn't worse.

Firemen are the best! Good on you for baking them cookies.

MJFredrick said...

How SCARY!!!! Thank God for all your neighbors, too! HUGS!

Charity said...

Very scary! I'm so glad everyone is okay, your house--for the most part--is okay.

And to show you how glad I am, I'm dropping a little something in the mail for you today.

groovyoldlady said...

How frightening! I'm so thankful that the Lord protected you and your home!

We once made a non-emergency call for an ambulance to help get my fil to the ER. He was confused and unsteady and Mom and I were afraid to try to get him down the stairs ourselves (He's a BIG guy!). We just wanted help with transport. The NON-emergency call netted 1 fire chief car, 1 ladder truck, 2 police cars, and an ambulance.


My day? itchy. very, VERY itchy.

Today I predict that I will be adding "grouchy" to "itchy" for a little variation.

Dru said...

oh my gosh...you were truly blessed. I'm so glad there wasn't that much damage.

Melissa McClone said...

Thank goodness things worked out so well and there wasn't a lot of damage! It could have been scary worse. Take care!

Tori Lennox said...

Yikes!!! I am SO thankful you're all okay and the damage wasn't any worse. So scary!

Brandy said...

Blessed be! Thank Goodness (and God) that y'all are okay! Sending HUGS!

Ceri Hebert said...

YIKES!! I'm so glad no one was hurt and they were able to keep it from spreading. Very lucky indeed!

We had several chimney fires growing up. I remember when my parents were off picking up my brother from the airport and we had one (my nana refused to leave the house) and they came home to a driveway full of firetrucks. I think that's when I started getting all giddy over firemen.

Lisa said...

OMG how scary! I'm so glad your neighbor was there to make you go out!

Charity said...

Ohmigosh, my heart was racing as I read this - even though I already knew you were okay. Whew. I'm glad you're still around.

(darcy even though it says i'm charity)

Sarita Leone said...

Thank God you're all okay! Sending huge hugs and good thoughts your way.

Amy said...

Holy crap on a stick!

So glad everyone is okay! And the house is still standing.

Firemen are INCREDIBLY polite. My friend who is a fireman says they try to treat everyone like they're close, well-liked family.

As far as the police showing up, it depends on what the emergency protocols for certain kind of calls are in your town.

Sorry, but ROFL on using it as a teaching moment. We did the same thing when the firemen showed up to scrape me off the bathroom floor one morning. It was probably one of the best things you could do to help DD feel like she had SOME sort of control in the situation. Knowledge is power. :)

Glad everyone is all right.

HUGS and Hurry Up Spring thoughts headed your way.

anno said...

Marianne, how scary! I'm so glad you are all ok, so glad the damage was relatively contained. Make sure to save some of those cookies for yourself today; all those carbohydrates are good for calming the nerves. :)

Sending hugs and good thoughts your ways.

--anno xxoooxxxoo

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oh, my gosh! I just saw this! That's so scary!

I'm glad the damage was contained and everyone is safe.

Allie Boniface said...

I'm late checking in...but I'm very very glad everything turned out (basically) OK!

And yeah, gotta love those "teachable moments..."