08 August 2006

Adventure of a Different Sort!

Today's post is copied from an email sent on Sunday, 6 August. Enjoy!

Rule Number One: "never shout 'fire!' in a crowded email ...

Excitement last night at Chez Winfield. Karen and I had been out with friends, Kathryn was in the city on a date, Patrick out with a friend, and we expected Andrew and some friends from campus after the late show at Second City.

So of course, we went to bed at our accustomed (early) hour. Expecting lots of interruptions we left Truman out of his crate. Everyone knows how to get him in and so we left him in the role of watch dog. Somewhere around 11:30 he woke us with a bark ['that must be Kathryn'] followed a few seconds later by the smoke detector. It wasn't Kathryn, it was smoke. At first we didn't know that because we'd never heard our upstairs alarm.

Out the bedroom door, and down the stairs. Karen (the one with the head on her shoulders) grabbed the wireless house phone and took Truman out on the porch, while I ran to the basement. Why the basement? I had replaced a fan switch in the afternoon, and though all worked well and there had been no circuit breaker problems, I was sure that my electrical work was on fire!

But it wasn't. In fact the main floor and basement were free of smell and smoke, so did I join Karen outside? No. I ran back upstairs, looked in the hallway bathroom - which of course we had both run past - to find the cover of the bathroom exhaust fan burning on the toilet seat. I blew that out (yea! for long-forgotten trombone breath!) Above it a smouldering hole with 2 small pin-pricks of flame.

Now I joined Karen outside and she was already talking to 9-1-1. Was there flame? Yes! Where, etc., and we were out the door. But not before I ran back up one more time and found the circle of the fan in full flame. OK, now I was both convinced and starting to get realistic about what we were facing.

By the time we were all 3 in the front yard, Truman on a leash (I tell you, Karen can keep her wits about her when everyone in the family loses theirs), the nice young police officer arrived. And we heard the first of the sirens. SirenS, because 4 towns sent trucks. A quiet night in the far west suburbs, I guess. Winfield of course, but also West Chicago, Carol Stream and Wheaton. I guess where we live in such close proximity to all those FPDs, we're pretty well covered. That's good to know!

Long story short: they pulled the firehose in, but didn't need to use it. [That's when Karen started to really worry. Now it was my turn to appear rational. I was sure that if they were going to use it, there would be a lot more hurry and more spoken commands. It seemed precautionary to me, and not crisis.] Lots of in and out, and we ended up with a big hole in our bathroom ceiling, some charred ceiling joists - yes, some wood had actually caught fire - and lost a lot of insulation. The fire crew even hauled out all that trash, leaving just a little, really, for us to vacuum and clean up.

Patrick came in a bit after midnight, while the Winfield firemen were still there. [The other districts had left, trying not to appear too disappointed :~)] So he helped keep Truman while Karen and I finished up with the outstanding crew chief and started to clean. Kathryn came in a bit after 1:30, just after we finally got back in bed. Andrew and his friends came in around 2:30. Of Course the dog was on high alert all night, so we did not get much sleep, with him barking at just about everything. By the way, he had been great on the leash with the firemen and all. Very patient and alert.

Basically, the fan probably shorted out and caught on fire. It tripped a circuit breaker, so part of our upstairs is without power until we get an electrician out. I ran some judicious extension cables and multiple outlets so we could use our bedroom and master bath. But that's all that was affected: 2 baths and bedroom. We had the house open all night, and there's really just the rooms without power that still smell a bit like smoke. I don't think we're going to lose anything to smoke damage anyway. Though I wouldn't mind getting a couple of new suits out of it ...

We are thanking God for "9-1-1" that works, for mercy that the fire did not start while all of us were away, and that we are getting by with so little damage and inconvenience.

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