Our firefighters are quiet heroes

The peace of mind that comes from knowing that help is a phone call away for house fires and other emergencies.

Very few of us, thankfully, want to see a house burn, whether it’s our own or someone else’s.

Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 5 – 11 this year. It may mean nothing to you, but just take a moment: to envision your house on fire and  no one to help you put it out? How would you feel, standing there and watching everything you owed burn?

I’ve never been in a house fire, never watched anyone’s house burn. I have watched vacant houses burn, including one next door to my family home in Windsor. My parents called the city’s fire department, who came to extinguish it. It took them a little while as the old house was well engulfed, and in that time (in the middle of the night), we kids talked to them and found that they were pretty neat guys.

Part of my family history, however, includes a house fire. Years before the house next to us burned, we had our own little fire in another part of town, while we were renting a teeny tiny little house owned by my grandmother.

Two years ago while I was visiting my oldest brother and his wife, the burning toilet seat came up in conversation.

Once upon a time, my dad decided to paint our large wooden toilet. Part of home renovations, you understand. (I come by the renovation bug honestly.)

To facilitate drying, he propped it upright next to the central grate over the furnace in the basement. The large grate was situated between the living room and the dining room, and  was the first place we kids headed after getting out of bed on cold mornings.

Not too long after I’d gone to bed, I was awakened by one of my parents to a bedroom rull of smoke and hurried outside. We didn’t have smoke alarms in those days, so it was fortunate that someone woke up. I only realized after I’d been awakened that I was coughing and choking on the smoke while still asleep: the  newly painted toilet seat had fallen onto the  grate and was filling the house with smoke.

My dad grabbed it, burning his hands in the process, and hucked it out the back door and into the neighbour’s yard. The smouldering toilet seat-shaped UFO hovering over our backyards quickly became neighbourhood legend.

The fire department wasn’t called, but we – my parents, myself and my two brothers – spent a couple of hours sitting on our front porch in the crisp Autumn air, wrapped in blankets, while the house was aired out.

It was the closest we ever came to fire, and something none of us will ever forget – partly because it was so ridiculous, and partly because it could have been much worse. Believe me, you don’t want a house fire. Thank goodness for our volunteer firefighters!

Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal

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