Two weekends ago, I had to put the fireplace on because this is Canada, and the weather can be minus 5 one day, and 30 degrees (38 with the humidex) the next. We literally had a heat wave from last Monday to Friday, then yesterday morning, it was 8 degrees Celsius (about 45 Fahrenheit for people who don’t have to worry about everything being in fancy wizard math), and I was wearing a sweatshirt instead of sweating.
Anyway, mandatory Canadian weather reference/complaint aside, two weekends ago, it got quite chilly, even for May, so I tried to put our gas fireplace on. It wouldn’t start, mainly because it’s old and you have to wiggle the wires underneath it to ignite it. I tried a couple of times, but Ken is the master wiggler, so he came in, performed his magic, and voila! There was heat. (And rereading those last two sentences back, it might seem that yet again, this blog has deviated into some kind of strange Canadian weather-related porn, but I AM talking about the fireplace.)
His work for the moment finished, Ken announced that he was walking to the corner to get gas for the lawnmower that he has been trying to fix for 6 weeks. (Give up, Ken. We can afford a new lawnmower.) While he was gone, I was in the back room talking to Titus about whether or not he was a good boy, as one does, when suddenly I heard this awful screeching sound. It was coming from the fireplace in the living room. I ran in and came around the corner just in time to see black smoke pouring out of the fan vents. Now, that might not be weird for a wood fireplace, but this one is gas. Naturally, I freaked out. I ran over, giving the front a wide berth in case it chose that moment to explode, turned the thermostat off so it would be less flame-y, then I did what any normal person would do—I started yelling for Ken.
Ken didn’t answer. I ran up and down the sidewalk but no response. I was terrified, but I went back in. It was still making the same deafening screeching noise and I could smell something burning, so I picked up the phone and called 9-1-1. I explained to the operator that I needed the fire department in a kind of staccato “Fireplace—smoke—gas—send help—“ way, and she told me the fire department was coming and to get out of the house. I grabbed Titus, put him in the back yard, then ran to the front, phone in hand and tears running down my face, still looking for Ken. I found him chatting with the next-door-neighbours. I screamed, “There’s something wrong with the fireplace. I called 9-1-1!” He came running, ran right past me and towards the house.
Me: What are you doing?! The 9-1-1 lady said NOT to go in!!
Ken: I’m going to turn off the breaker!
Me: You’re not allowed to go in!
Ken: It’s fine! It’s probably just the motor!
Me: Don’t go in! I order you to stay outside—
Ken: *disappears into the house*
Anyway, he turned off the breaker and the screeching stopped. There wasn’t any more smoke, although the air still smelled charred, but there was no smell of gas, and that was a good sign. We stared at the fireplace for a minute. It seemed like it was no longer about to explode, so I tried cancelling the 9-1-1 call, but it was too late. The next thing, firetrucks are pulling up to the house and some very nice firefighters helped us check everything out. Apparently, there was a tag on a wire next to the fan, and when we were wiggling the wires, the tag got dislodged and ended up in the fan blades, causing the fan to overheat. Embarrassing as it was, the firefighters were really great and they waited while we turned it back on to see what would happen. It came back on quietly, and all was good, so the fire department left.
Ken: When I saw you, I thought someone had died.
Me: Well, I was pretty upset. I thought the house was going to blow up. I was screaming for you—I can’t believe you couldn’t hear me. You were right next door.
Ken: It was windy. I couldn’t hear you over the wind. You were “downwind”.
Me: The wind…what?!
Ken: Never mind. What did you do with Raven?
Me: She’s around here somewhere. I didn’t have time to look all over for her then try to catch her and carry her around with me. We probably need a plan for her in case there’s ever a real fire.
Raven: I should f*cking hope so.
I was still pretty mad at Ken for just running into the house when the operator said to GET OUT AND DON’T GO BACK IN, even though it was all fine in the end. But Ken has a very fortuitous relationship with fire, having almost immolated himself on more than one occasion. Once, about twenty years ago, he was cooking dinner and I was upstairs. Suddenly I heard him screaming “Help! Help me!” I came running into the kitchen and he was rolling around on the floor, his shirt on fire. I grabbed a tea towel and started trying to put him out. Between the rolling and the vigorous slapping, I extinguished him. Turns out, he was leaning against the stove, his sweatshirt touching one of the burners. Next thing, POOF! Up he went. Luckily, he remembered to “Stop, Drop, and Roll”, but man, did he leave scorch marks on the pine floor.
And then on Friday, he did the following in this exact sequence:
1) Start a fire in the burn pit.
2) Get gas for the lawnmower.
3) Fill up the lawnmower with gas.
4) Try to start the lawnmower.
5) Defend the lawnmower to his wife thusly: “It’s not broken. It always takes this many pulls to start it.”
6) Finally get the lawnmower started.
7) Begin mowing the lawn around the burn pit.
8) Ignore his wife’s screams. Yell “I can’t hear you over the lawnmower! You’re downwind!”
9) Push the gas lawnmower onto the burning burn pit in an attempt to cut the grass around it as close as he can.
10) Be forced to turn the lawnmower off when screaming wife (see number 8) stands in front of the mower to berate him.
Me: What the f*ck is wrong with you? You just filled it up with gas! It could explode!
Ken: Why are you scolding me like I’m a five year old?
Me: Why are you mowing the lawn like you’re a five year old?!
Ken: What? That doesn’t make any sense.
Me: Don’t mow the firepit!
Words to live by, am I right? Anyway, he finished mowing and at a certain point, I heard him trimming the edges of the flower beds with the weed whacker. After a while, the noise stopped so I went out to see if he wanted a drink. The weed whacker was lying in the exact middle of the patio and Ken was sitting on the deck staring at it with a mixture of bewilderment and dejection.
Me: What’s wrong?
Ken: The weed whacker set on fire.
Ken: Yeah. It started smoking and then flames literally shot out of it. I think we need a new one.
Me: Ya think?
Yesterday, we went out and bought a fire extinguisher. It’s small, so I can carry it with me everywhere. Just in case.