Flash chimney fire cause for Friday night lights

I had just finished dining on my barbecue tri-tip steak. Oh yea, I barbecued it myself. I don’t care for store-bought or restaurant-cooked tri-tip. Too mushy. Also, I make my own barbecue sauce. I like mine better than any other that I’ve ever tried, especially from restaurants. Not to say restaurants don’t make good sauce. I’m sure they do. I like mine better.

I had washed the dishes. Dried them, and even put them away. I was settling in  for a nice evening  off. My lovely wife was attending the theater. I was alone, happy as a clam.

I had had a busy week, and it was Friday night. Time to relax, enjoy, and embrace the quiet. Oh, how I love quiet.

I ordered up a good movie; had a fire in the fireplace. Had my diet soda at the ready, pushed my recliner back into the full horizontal position with leg support, and sunk deep into the soft cushions.

And then it popped. Or roared. Or extended and extraordinary, deep growl. The living room exploded with hot, searing light.

I knew instantly what had happened: a ferocious, flash-chimney fire.  I’ve had them before and they can be frightening. My fireplace cavity, where fire is supposed to be, was roaring with an angry bent. I ran out, into my backyard to ensure I was right and yep, there it was. Flames were roaring up and out the top of the chimney, which is about 15-to-20-feet tall.

The spark arrester suddenly exploded off the chimney’s top like a cannon ball. I ran back inside and called 911. My smoke alarms were blaring throughout the house. I raced to get my fire extinguisher. Found it under the kitchen sink, pulled the pin and while standing about 6-feet away from the fireplace, let it rip. It didn’t put the blaze out, but knocked it down somewhat.

I ran into the garage, got a bucket and filled it with tap water from the kitchen sink. My God, that seemed to take forever when it was only a few seconds. I threw water on the blaze and it still didn’t snuff it out. I filled the bucket up again and threw it on a second time and this time it worked. The fireplace went dark. Out. Done. Black smoke went white, almost immediately.

The fire department then showed up and finished the job. Looking back on it, the firefighters got to my house rather quickly. Maybe a minute or two. I does help that the fire station is about a block away. Funny, how gratitude sneaks in when you are so quickly helped. Thanks, guys.

The house now was filled with smoke and the remnants from the fire extinguisher. You could barely see. The firefighters explained to me what they were going to do and set up a fan to get rid of the smoke. They used a thermal-heat detector, I don’t know the official title, to ensure there was no fire inside the walls. There wasn’t.

Also, by this time, my neighbors had come out into the street to see what was going on. One kind neighbor jokingly called out: “What are trying to do? Get more publicity than you already get?”  I do love my neighborhood.

It took the rest of the evening to clean up, rid the house of smoke and generally put everything back in order.

My lovely wife returned from her theater night all a bubbly and full of excitement. She talked a mile a minute about her evening; how much fun it was, and the possibility that she may have acted the matchmaker with two of our friends.

After about 30 minutes or so, she asked: “How was your evening?  Uneventful?”

“Pretty much,” I replied, nodding in agreement. My wife loves it when I nod in agreement.

“I’m tired,” she said, yawning. “Goodnight, honey. I’m glad you got to spend some time by yourself and relax. You deserve it.” She gave me a kiss and went off to bed.

Ahhhh, the good life.


About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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