It had all the ingredients of a quiet Thanksgiving night, spent among friends so close as to be family, who I had spent the last few hours eating with, chatting with, and relaxing with. Then, all of the sudden, the smell of burning plastic and smoke coming from upstairs led those of us in the house to scamper around, seeking to protect life, including the lives of some little guinea pigs, fight the fire with the materials at hand, and then, slowly, blow the smoke out of the house and examine what went wrong for prevention of future problems. All in all, it was a far more dramatic incident than I was expecting to see. It is not every day that one seeks peace and quiet and an enjoyable day among good company and ends up being faced with life-threatening peril through fire. Even in the aftermath of the initial blaze, there is still the concern about smoldering heat leading to a secondary blaze and a concern about the lasting effects of the smoke on those of us who breathed it in as we made our way outside and then back in again.
There is something immensely chaotic about a fire. One witnesses the flames several feet high, sees the smoke pouring in from openings in the second floor and then rushes with the goal of preserving life. After making sure that everyone is alright, since fighting fires is not a particular skill of mine and because I was mostly in the way when trying to investigate maters myself, even afterward. The first news we had of the fire was one of the young ladies of the house, who thought that it was her lamp on fire. She sounded the alarm and the frenzied activity got started. Figuring out that the fire had started in the laundry room, some of the party jumped into the fray with fire extinguishers, and eventually it took three of them to drive the flames away, and plenty of time before the smoke was out of the house enough for the delicate little guinea pigs to return. All in all, it took only a few minutes, and a lot of scrambling around as I held a guinea pig whose house had been singed and partially melted by the heat of the fire.
And what caused the fire, one would ask? The pattern of the flames suggests, at least initially, the rear stove was somehow turned on, either on purpose or accidentally, and the presence of a large amount of junk on top and all around it gave a great deal of fuel for the blaze to spread once it started. Fortunately, it was able to be fought off, at the cost of some foam damage on some of the upstairs portion as well as the loss of some clothes and other items in the laundry room. But the guinea pigs only suffered minor wounds, and the people involved only suffered a bit of coughing from smoke and no other apparent damage. A few items to replace is far better than losing a house, which is much more difficult to replace, or losing lives, which are only replaced by divine miracle and not to be taken for granted, especially given that the fire itself was started due to human folly. Suffice it to say that there will be some obvious takeaways from this near-disaster, namely the need to avoid packing stacks of flammable items in and around the stove.
So, this Thanksgiving there is more than usual to be thankful for. For one, thanks be to alert people who are quick to notice what is wrong, given that I was personally about as far away from the blaze as I could have been. Thanks be to some clear-headed people who knew what they were doing and were able to fight the blaze, at some risk to themselves. Thanks be to good packrat behavior that led to there being three portable fire extinguishers to fight the blaze, a supply that few individual homes possess, being saved from the fate of being thrown away for no good purpose from the workplace of some of the people involved. Thanks for good company to share a successful escape from disaster, and to share a traumatic but ultimately successful experience, with lessons learned and only minor damages to repair and the loss of a few possessions to replace. But thanks most of all to God, for delivering all alive and without harm, especially given what could have happened had there not been the ready means to successfully flight the blaze at its source. One never knows when disaster will strike, or when one will face danger and peril. The cleanup and the aftermath will last for some time yet, but for now, at least, the moment of danger has passed.