We Were Blessed Today (Fire Safety is No Joke)

It was one of those mornings. Sundays make me stabby anyway. The boys always complain about going to mass, and trying to wrangle them into appropriate church clothing is next to impossible.

Then, sixty minutes of "get off me" and "he's touching me" and me hissing "BE QUIET!" and the two year old loudly asking "church over yet?"

Back at home the battle over hanging up the church clothes and completing Monday's homework and picking up the messes from the weekend begins. I was under a writing deadline, and I had to have some time to myself to finish a project.

Yet, I was battling with little boys over things they should have just known to do.

Finally - finally - at 3:00 p.m. Hubby took them to his sister's to play with their cousins, and I settled in with my laptop.

But then,  I thought, 'What is that smell? It smells like something is burning.'

My mind went through every scenario - nothing was in the oven or the dryer. Did I leave my flat iron on? Even if I had, it turns off automatically after a while. My laptop wasn't overheating. I had to work, so I foolishly ignored it.

And then came the bangs on my front door, which I ignored because I thought it was the boys coming back from their cousins' house. Suddenly, I saw a barefoot man quickly run into my backyard and run back out. Something was definitely up.

I opened the front door, immediately smelled the smoke, and heard someone say, "....house is on fire." Oh my god, my neighbor's house is on fire. <---It had to be hers, it couldn't be ours.

Only, it was our house. And thank goodness, the neighbors had seen it and come running.

We have a lovely outdoor fireplace. For the past three years, it has been a source of joy and comfort and family bonding for us. My husband is teaching the older two boys how to stoke the fire and add logs safely. They love helping.

Saturday the whole family raked leaves and worked hard to clean up the yard. After dinner, we started a fire and all cuddled up together around the fireplace. We've been reading the Harry Potter series, and it feels like the one time we all get along and actually want to be together.

Yesterday, evidently, Hubby did something he never usually does - he cleaned out the fireplace, and tossed the ashes and logs on top of the leaves in the yard waste container. You see, it is going to rain all week here, so we won't be having a fire any time soon.

Evidently, the embers weren't quite cool from the night before, and combined with the dry leaves we had raked up the previous day, they began smoking again, and caught fire. The fire was climbing its way up the side of our garage. Had our neighbors not seen it, it would have been much worse.

I thought the firefighters would lecture me, but they were really quite nice. They said that this actually happens quite a bit this time of year. People, like Hubby, are eager to clean up their yards, and dry leaves can make kindling. The Chief suggested waiting longer than 24 hours to clean out the fireplace or firepit. And certainly not putting it next the house mixed with leaves. He suggested also looking for steam or smoke coming from the logs, and making sure that the wood is wet and cold.

 More fire safety tips from the website smokeybear.com:

  1. Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible
  2. Pour lots of water on the fire, drown ALL embers, not just the red ones
  3. Pour until hissing sound stops
  4. Stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shovel
  5. Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers
  6. Stir and make sure everything is wet and they are cold to the touch
  7. If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough dirt or sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cool.
Hubby felt pretty bad - it was a momentary lapse of judgment on his part. He just wanted to get the fireplace cleaned out. Now we have a huge mess on the side of our house to clean up and some boards of siding to repair and repaint.

But, the bigger picture is, at least we were safe and there was not more significant damage. We were blessed, as a friend reminded me.

Truly, tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye, and not just to someone who is simply being careless. Even if you think you've done everything right, it is worth it to check and double check again.

Fire safety is no joke.

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