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Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Night With The Fire Department

It would have been great my night with the fire department was for a fundraiser or benefit or something along those lines but it wasn't. This was the scene in the front of my home at around 4 o'clock this morning.

At around 3 AM, I thought I smelled smoke. It was just little whiffs. I really thought I was imagining things. About 5 or 10 minutes later, I smelled it again. This time, I got up and did a quick walk in the upstairs hall and each of the rooms. I also opened some windows to see if there might be smoke outside. I caught a light whiff once in the hall but I wasn't even sure it was smoke. So I went back to my bed. I smelled it here and there a few more times and I began to think that one of the yard sale books I had been looking through might be smokey. I proceeded to sniff each of the books. They smelled like books. I was becoming perplexed. I decided to go downstairs and check there next. I smelled the smokey smell in the kitchen but it wasn't too strong. I unplugged all my appliances and felt everything and sniffed everything. All I smelled was the light smell in the kitchen. I went back upstairs. After a few more minutes, I smelled it again. So, back downstairs I went. We rent our home which is a big 2 story attached to an Odd Fellows Lodge. There is a door between our kitchen and the lodge. This time I went over and moved my island away from the door and put my face up to it. The smoke smell was quite strong there! There was also a light on next door. The door is kept locked on both sides so I couldn't check anything out. I went outside and around to the other side. It was locked and I couldn't see anything inside. 

I called Steve to see whether he thought I should call the landlords or 911 first. He suggested I call the landlords first. I tried calling but couldn't get through. I went back inside and and sniffed at the door again. It was definitely a strong, stinky, electrical smelling smoke. I decided to call 911. It took a few minutes to get the operator to understand what I was talking about but they finally put the call to the fire department. The operator asked if we could get out safely and I told him that I really hadn't planned on waking my kids up yet. He told me I should go ahead and wake them up and take them outside. Right as we walked outside, the town fire siren went off. A minute later, an ambulance pulled in to the Odd Fellows lot. A few minutes after that, 2 firetrucks came rolling up the street. After explaining everything to them, one of them came in my side and he smelled the smoke. I was glad he smelled it because I was so paranoid that they would get there and there would be nothing. Several minutes later, a 3rd truck arrived. Since there was no visible flame or smoke, they waited for somebody with a key to come let them in. A couple guys tried accessing the other side through the basement but the door there was also locked. I stood outside while I watched them grab various equipment and make trips in and out of the building, including our side. We heard a lot of pounding as they tried to bust through a door that nobody seemed to have a key to. They weren't finding any fire or hot spots but they all smelled the smoke. About 10 or 15 minutes after the third truck arrived, a fourth truck arrived. Apparently, it's standard procedure to call Pine Township when there is a commercial fire call. So, there were 3 departments called out to our house. I really thought they'd send one or two guys to scope it out to see if they needed to call the whole lot of them out.

Finally, about an hour after they arrived, they started coming out of the building. They said it was a light ballast. I had no idea what they were talking about. It turns out that a ballast is part of florescent lights and one on the other side that had been left on, had burned out. I was so relieved that they figured out what it was and that it was something fairly minor. It could have caught fire, but I guess they don't usually. It still freaked me out. Smelling smoke in the middle of the night is one of my biggest fears and today, it happened! I am just so thankful to God that it wasn't something major. The wiring in this house is pretty old, so I was worried about that. I feel a little bad that 4 trucks showed up and spent over an hour looking through the whole place only to discover a burned out ballast. Of course, all I knew was that I smelled an electrical type smoke coming from the other side and had no clue what was going on over there.

I can still feel myself shaking a bit. It's been about an hour and a half since everybody left but I'm still feeling a little wired. What a crazy night. I'm just so happy it wasn't something major. The kiddos went back to bed fairly easily after a little over an hour of bright flashing lights and strange men walking through the house. They sat really well on our park bench through most of the event. I don't think I'll be able to sleep for a little while yet.

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