Friday, March 6, 2009

Family escapes Fire

Just to get your attention, I thought I'd start this message with a headline suitable for those Expose-All magazines/ newspapers you can buy at the checkout line in grocery stores.

Yes, our house caught fire, again.
Here's how it happened:
We live in a 1740s stone farmhouse heated partly by electric heat and partly by a woodstove.

We've been freezing in our house, so Wednesday evening my husband decided to light a fire in the woodstove. (He never did start one this past weekend -- when it was below freezing and snowing. But since the Monday and Tuesday nights the temperatures went down to about 8 degrees F., he decided to build a fire.)

For some reason, perhaps he was too much in a hurry, building it too hot too quickly -- the fire spread up the pipe into the chimney.
I arrived home from work to find the living room full of smoke and him battling a chimney fire -- with the 9-year-old in the same room, blissfully unaware on the computer playing on

I got the 9-year-old off the computer while my husband managed to put out the fire in the pipe connecting the woodstove to the chimney, but it had spread to the fire shelf. (right where the pipe goes into the chimney.)
It never became a full-blown chimney fire, roaring up the chimney. We've had several of those and the sound of it, like a roaring train, is unforgettable.

Once the 9-year-old realized what was happening, she was terribly worried about the fire spreading throughout the house. (It never has. It always remains just a chimney fire. That's why this house has stood for so long -- stone houses don't burn. The wooden floors and joists do, but as long as it stays in the chimney the only damage is from all the smoke.) Asbestos shingles on the roof also help keep any sparks from igniting the house.

I got the 9-year-old distracted and calmed down, and into PJs and finally into bed. (a little bit of Shel Silverstein's funny poems from his book, Crack in the Sidewalk, helped, too.)

My husband kept pumping water and fire retardant into the pipe and at the base of the chimney. For several hours we could hear the fire crackling on the fire shelf and stuff falling from the inside of the chimney onto the pipe connection, gradually becoming fainter and fainter.

Now the house is colder than it was before -- we had had to open all doors and some windows to get the smoke out. And my poor husband can't lay another fire until he cleans the gook out of the chimney. When the fire hits a chimney, the creosote deposited there by months of fire smoke puffs out like a marshmallow in a microwave. It either flies out the chimney or falls off the chimney walls. Lots of stuff fell out of the chimney onto the fire shelf and into the stove pipe during the excitement.

Temperatures are supposed to rise all week, with maybe a high in the 60s by Saturday. Whoop-de-do.
I'm going to have to wash most of our clothing, because the smoke came upstairs into our bedroom, too. (Dang, those smoke alarms are loud -- it doesn't realize that we're right there, fighting the fire, and yes we DO know there's smoke in the room.)

So -- how was YOUR day?


Anonymous said...

Yikes, Wendie! Glad you are all okay.

laurasalas said...

Oh my gosh, Wendie. I'm guessing your weekend was filled with laundry and cleaning. Blech.

But I'm so glad everyone's ok and your home wasn't damaged.

Wendie O said...

I'm so glad the weather was warm this weekend. We opened all the doors (the house has seven doors) and some of the windows, put the ceiling fans on full blast, and let the wind push the smoke smell out. The little dishes of odor absorbing pebbles helped too.

-wendie O