“Your house is on fire”
I’ve been sitting here, for the past two days, thinking about how I can put down in words how yesterday felt. Sometimes, when you least expect it, things can change, or at least you feel like they have. Yesterday started like any other morning, I woke up, played with the cats, showered and went on my way to work. Traffic was steady, like any other weekday, it slowed as I neared the city, and that’s when it happened. I received a call that can only come from a nightmare.
Our friend called, he said our neighbour had just called him and told him they had no way to reach us. His call to us sounded like a joke "Taryn, Your house is on fire, your neighbour just called me" he continued to say there were a number of fire trucks, and smoke pouring out of the basement. Imagine this news, while you’re alone, and helpless, stuck in traffic on the 401.
"Taryn, Your house is on fire, your neighbour just called me"
The tears started immediately. I quickly panicked, faster than you could imagine.
It was all a blur. My parents live close by, so the first thing I remember, was calling my mom, and getting no answer. Not at home. Not on her cell. Working my way down the list, I try my younger brother; weeping into the phone, I manage to get out the words “my house is on fire, I need help”. He helped me realize my older brother was working nearby, I got him on the phone and he rushed over to our house. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to turn around on the 401. I reach my mom; she’s on her way as well.
Next I spoke with Dave, our friend had called him as well. He was on his way home.
We had just adopted another cat. A friend for Frank, her name is Beans and all I could think in the 45 minutes I was trying to get home, was the worst, and that we had lost the cats. We were going to get home to a mess.
On my way, I called my neighbours’, they told me the fire department wasn’t in the house, and there was smoke billowing out of the basement. All I could think was “why aren’t they inside. What is going on? THE CATS?!”
Forty-five minutes felt like a lifetime. My imagination was running wild. Everyone who knows me knows well that patience is not a virtue I possess.
I got home to a house full. My brother was first to arrive, as the fire trucks were leaving, next my mom, who unlocked the house and tracked down the monsters, before starting to wash my dishes. My brother, on the phone with my dad, the firefighter, searching for any signs of a fire, and Dave, white as a ghost, with wide-eyes and seeing as much fear in him, as I had on my own.
Fortunately, there was no sign of fire.
I had started the dryer before I left the house. My clothes were still wet from the previous cycle. Someone had been walking by our house when they noticed the exhaust from the dryer venting out the side of our house. They assumed it was a fire and as a result called 9-1-1.
"They assumed it was a fire and as a result called 9-1-1."
First and foremost, I am beyond relieved that 1. There was no fire, 2. we had someone attentive enough to notice that something could have been wrong 3. That my family and neighbours bent over backwards to get over to our house and make sure that there was no major problems.
When we first moved into our house, I remember having a dream (nightmare). I’m a fairly vivid dreamer. Right after our home inspection the inspector mentioned the insulation in our attic is very flammable, and if it does get to a point where it comes in contact with any fire, it will continue to spread, and is not stoppable. Whether or not this is true, this was the first nightmare I had when we moved in. I had a dream there was a fire in our attic and we had no fire extinguisher, no water, and no fire trucks to save us.
Growing up with my dad being a fire fighter, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories. With the Toronto news over the past two days speaking of the Badminton & Racquet club fire, and the house fire in Brampton that took the lives of several people, I just felt my heart break. Fire is just one of those things you think will never happen. There are a few things we realized during this scare that would not have changed anything in this situation, but are important for us to consider.
Make sure you have functioning smoke alarms: We have one on our main floor, but with the renovations we’ve been going through, it’s ended up in a closet. Although this wouldn’t have made a big difference with us away from the house, it’s something we have to get back on the wall and ready to keep us safe. We also need to install one in our basement.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors: In Ontario, these are actually mandatory if you have a Gas furnace, or any gas appliance. Since Carbon Monoxide is odourless, colourless and undetectable by humans, these are SO SO important. You should have one outside your sleeping areas, and one close to your furnace as a bare minimum. (You can also buy a combo smoke/CO Detectors!)
Share your emergency contact information with your neighbours: This could be optional, but if we hadn’t referred a contractor friend to our neighbour, they would have had no way of reaching us to let us know about the issue, even though in the end it was nothing.
Clean your Dryer Vent: We all (should) know that cleaning the lint trap on your dryer between every use is important, but what is equally as important, is clearing the venting from your dryer to the exterior of your home, to ensure there is no build up. Build up in dryer vents is one of the leading causes of household fires.
Fire Extinguishers: Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher; especially in your kitchen to ensure you’ve got a way to put out any potential hazard. Water doesn’t work for any oil fire, it actually makes it worse, a fire extinguisher is an affordable purchase at your local hardware store, and will help keep you safe.
Try to avoid running appliances while you’re out of the house: this one is probably me being paranoid now, but if you can avoid leaving things unattended, it’s a great way to try to prevent anything from happening.
Once again, I’m so relieved there was nothing wrong, but it makes you realize how quickly things could change.
A HUGE thanks goes out to my family for rushing to our side, and to everyone who put up with our craziness as we tried to figure out what was going on.