When I was growing up, like good parents, my mom and dad didn’t let me play with matches and made me well aware that matches were dangerous. I was probably in my mid-late teens before I got up the courage to strike a match on my own…I still have a fear of those paper matches in those little books. I’m scared I’m going to burn my fingers or drop the thing when it flares up. I’m 28 for Pete’s sake…I much prefer those wooden match sticks or those click lighter things made for candles.
My parents have always been super cautious about fire. To heat the house, my parents burned wood in the wood stoves. My dad always diligently cleaned the chimney each year and banked the fire when they left the house. They made sure to unplug all appliances, turn off the electricity to the porch/backroom and all the baseboard heaters when they were not in use or when they left the house. Pretty much the only things plugged in on a permanent basis were my digital alarm clock, the fridge, the freezer and the kitchen stove. They still do all these things and in fact unplug everything whether they leave the house or not. If it’s not being used…it’s not plugged in…that’s their view of things. It also reduces the risk of fire, but dramatically lowers their electric bill since the items like the tv or microwave (things that have a clock or light or something showing they are in standby mode) aren’t continuously pulling power. Oddly, despite all their fire prevention and precaution…there was no smoke detectors to be found…it wasn’t until after I moved out that they were installed and only after I bought them and helped install one in each room of the house.
Anyway, something happened early this morning that made me remember something that happened to me when I was living at home. It didn’t happen directly to me, but it affected me and made me really think. There was an arsonist who set fire to at least 5 houses around the hill where I lived. My dad went to work one morning and called to tell us someone should call the police and the fire department because one of the trailers down the road, one that was only used in the summer for a few weeks a year, had been burned to the ground and was no longer burning, just smoldering. It wasn’t until later that we learned this was not the only house to burn to the ground that night. All were unoccupied summer homes and, thankfully, no one was hurt. One of the fires, however, nearly set a grove of pine trees ablaze. Somehow, the fire extinguished itself shortly before reaching the treeline, which was extremely lucky because if those pine trees caught fire, there could have been a serious forest fire. I don’t believe the arsonist was ever caught…
As a young girl, probably no more than 10 or 12 (I don’t remember exactly how old I was), it hit me hard that someone out there would destroy someone’s house. I remember sitting up in my bed for most of the night for a few nights after we learned about the fires, listening to the noises of the house, smelling for smoke, hoping to not hear the sounds of fire or someone creeping around, but wanting to be awake and responsive if I did.
Last night something made me remember this. I woke around 5am with the sounds of the garbage truck crushing a couch that a neighbor left out for pick up and heard sirens in the distance. When I got up to peer out the window I started smelling smoke. It was different from the smell of a fire burning in a chimney, which I grew up smelling. It had that smell of something burning to the ground, fully engulfed, almost like garbage burning. I checked out the window, looking up and down the street, looking for signs of fire or smoke. I saw nothing, but I continued to smell it. I began to get worried that the smell was coming from my own house and luckily when I went out in the hall, the smell stopped. I checked in on Bug and smelled around at the top of the stairs. When I went into the spare room to look up and down the street from a different view, I began smelling the smoke again when I was close to the windows. The wind was blowing pretty hard, so after fully checking on everything, I went back to bed and confirmed with Darling Hubby that I was indeed smelling smoke and that it wasn’t coming from our house. I then had trouble falling back to sleep. The smell of the smoke kept me awake and I had a paranoid feeling that I should stay awake to make sure nothing else was wrong and that I was right about the smokey smell coming in on the wind.
I finally fell asleep around 6 and when I woke later in the morning I no longer smelled the smokey smell, until I stepped outside. I did a little research this morning and found that a building across town, in the neighborhood of where Darling Hubby and I used to live, caught fire around 4:30ish this morning. The wind blew the smell of the smoke clear across town. Oddly enough, this building also caught fire in January and has been uninhabited since. Thankfully no one was seriously injured.
Today I’ve checked our smoke detectors as a precaution and found that the upstairs one has an issue with the test button. The button doesn’t work, but when I bypass it with my finger, it works just fine…I think I want to replace it just to be on the safe side…I don’t want any faulty smoke detectors…
This has made me think about talking to Bug about fires and what would happen if there was one at the house. He’s only 4 and I’m not sure he would entirely understand just yet (although he probably would understand more than I give him credit for) and I don’t want to traumatize him. He did see the firetrucks in action earlier this week when there was a fire around the corner, even though he just saw them spraying water and some smoke, no flames. I just don’t want to scare him into thinking that fire is bad and that the fire that keeps us warm in the winter is something to fear. I think I’ll have to do a little research on how to go about talking to a child about the dangers of fires. If anyone has any suggestion for talking to a 4 year old about fire and fire prevention, let me know!