Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Only in Upsala

There aren't many fire departments that get called to houses that have burned all the way down, no flames, no smoke left at all. Upsala might be one of the only ones actually. It doesn't happen all the time - our response time isn't that bad - but it has happened a couple of times in the past 13 years. You'd think someone would have seen the glow on the horizon and put two and two together. "Gosh, Sam's place is sure looking lively over there tonight. He must be having one major barbeque . . ." But no, not one person notices, the place burns down, smolders for a day or two, then someone comes along and says, "Hey, this place burned down. I wonder if we should call the Fire Department . . ."

That's when the interesting part starts. The owners ask me how it happened. Hmm. Good question. I was wondering the same thing. Oh, you want me to tell you? Hey, I'm just the fire chief. How am I supposed to know? That answer doesn't usually cut it, so I wander around the site, crouch down and look at a microscopic chunk of rafter end (which is all that is left of the roof) snap a few photos and say, "Well, it could have started in the panel box, or in the woodstove, or possibly the dryer. If it didn't start there, it might have been the microwave. What's that? You say you didn't have a microwave? Well, I guess that possibility is ruled out."

Sounds pretty lame, doesn't it. Believe me, it feels pretty lame too. But what do people expect? Send me off to a two and a half day course on Fire Cause Determination, and voila! I'm supposed to be an instant expert.

Sometimes I get it right. Like that time the guy wasn't watching his cooking and his kitchen curtains caught fire. After we put the fire out and I interviewed him, it was time to do the report. I wrote something like this: "Caused by kitchen stove catching curtains on fire." Hey, the two and a half day course paid off after all.

If you want to see a short clip on kitchen fires, click here. The moral of the story? Keep your eye on that cooking!

1 comment:

  1. I was lucky enough to have that video demonstrated to me live when I did my basic firefighter course over here in Australia. It's amazing what just a cup of water can do, and unfortunately that's the first thing people think of.

    I'm liking the firefighting posts, it's good to read about how it's done in other countries.


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