They thought it might snow today. It didn’t but we got some pretty decent sleet. Not that there’s really anything decent about sleet. It’s basically the redneck version of snow. Suffice it to say it was cold. I had no plans to leave the house and was anticipating a quiet day by the fire. That’s what I get for thinking.
We slept late, did the daily crossword puzzle (the main reason I still get the paper delivered) when I decided I wanted a waffle–with pecans–and some bacon. We bought one of those waffle makers that flip over a couple of months ago but rarely use it. Today seemed the perfect day to pull it out. We made the batter from scratch and it was delicious. Lou needed to run over to his house so I made a fire in the fireplace and settled on the couch with my laptop. After awhile I got up to add another log and picked one that was a little heavier than I anticipated. Unbeknownst to me, while I was struggling with the log the flue closed shut. I snuggled back under my blanket when the smoke alarm went off. This wasn’t the first time that’s happened so I got up to open a window in the kitchen which always works.
By the time I headed back to the living room the air was thick with smoke. I realized immediately what had happened and rushed over to open the flue with the poker–something I have done before (don’t ask!). When I opened the doors, flames shot out of the fireplace only a few inches from my face. They were so high I couldn’t see the flue to try to get it open. I realized that this was an accident waiting to happen, grabbed my phone to call 911. I stayed calm as the operator asked for the address and phone number twice before asking what the problem was. It seemed like it took ten minutes to get all the information out but I’m sure it was probably no more than a minute or two.
I was praying that Littlebit had not been scared by the smoke alarm and was still sleeping under the covers. She was and I quickly scooped her up and started walking out of the house at the same time the operator was telling me to get out. I put Littlebit in the car and heard a siren in the distance. I was surprised when I saw a hook and ladder trying to make the turn unto my street. The streets in my neighborhood are pretty narrow and the right turn onto my street is less than a 90 degree angle. While the fire truck spent about five minutes (no exaggeration here) backing up and pulling forward I’m standing at the end of the driveway making these giant gestures with my arms trying to indicate that they could simply go around the block to get to my house. Either they didn’t want to or didn’t care or thought I was an idiot. I kind of think it might have been the latter simply because of the following fact which I never thought of at the time. Picture this: A 60 year old rotund woman clad in her red, green and pink striped Christmas knee high socks, pink Crocs, pink and blue tea cup capri pajamas and pink sweatshirt with snowflakes. Did I mention that when I left the house it started seriously sleeting so the top of my head was covered by ice? Yep, I don’t think I would have followed this woman’s instructions either. But I never once thought about my appearance during the entire ordeal. I was way too busy praying and I did get a peace about it when I realized that there was nothing in the house that couldn’t be replaced.
As concerned as I was about the fireplace blowing up and burning the house down I had to laugh when one of fireman got stuck as he was exiting the hook and ladder. His legs were kind of dangling down while two other fireman tried to dislodge him from whatever he was attached to. When they went into the house I suddenly realized that behind them was another hook and ladder crew, a fire chief in a van and a sheriff’s deputy. He was the only one who didn’t try to hide his smile as he walked up. I was introducing myself when my eye caught a little old lady walking down the street with her cane in one hand and a hooded raincoat in the other. Tears were running down my cheeks as I rushed to meet her. I hugged her and told her that she was an angel. She said I looked so cold standing in the driveway she just had to do something. My porch is right by my fireplace and I didn’t want to get caught in the blast and I wasn’t about to open the car door to open the garage and risk letting Littlebit loose in an unfamiliar place in the sleet. I’ve done THAT before too.
All in all, the fire probably burned for about 30 minutes with the flue closed. I know how smoky it was when I walked out and it burned at least ten minutes after that. Surprisingly, when I went back in the only noticeable smoke damage was right around the top of the fireplace and on the mantle. The smell was pretty bad but I have two industrial strength fans that we put against the screen door so it cleared out quickly. The firemen told me to turn the A/C on to help. It was 33 degrees outside at the time so it got very cold for a while. I’m lucky and I’m blessed. I’m other things too but that’s for another day. Stay warm!