Thursday, June 15, 2006

Where There's Smoke

Monday, I was sitting at work at around 5:15 staring blankly into my compooter screen trying to figure out which of my not-particularly-pressing issue to work on. Then I think to myself, "Self, it's after 5:00, and none of these issues is particularly pressing. Go home."

So I went home.

Pulled into the drive and walked to the front door, where I noted that the birdbath fountain was running dry. Now, this fountain is the bane of my existence. It requires near-continuous maintenance to keep running properly. Being a master of drip irrigation, I ran a drip line to it that fills it with water every single day at 10am, so for it to be out of water at 6pm is not a normal failure mode. I investigated. The drip line was pinched because it hadn't been put back in the cutout when I reinstalled the top after cleaning out the pump to get it working again a couple days ago.

It's always something.

So I go over and get the garden hose and start filling up the fountain. I'm standing there filling up the fountain when The Mrs. comes tear-assing out of the house holding MaxieC and with HannieC right behind her. She looks at me and says, "Did you call the fire department?"

"No. I'm filling up the water fountain."

"Why not?"

"Cuz I'm just standing here filling up the water fountain. Is there a fire?" I'm looking at the house wondering if it's going to burn to the ground before I get a chance to sell it and if I should go back in to get the dog. It appears to be normal.

"Call the fire department on your cellphone right now. You didn't see the fire?"


If I'd seen a fire, I wouldn't be standing here with the garden hose filling up the water fountain. It's not like I'd drive up and go, "Holy smokes! The garage is on fire! I better get the hose! Oh, hey, the water fountain needs some filling up. I'll just take care of that on my way to the fire, since I've got the hose out already and all." And you never want to call the fire department on your cellphone unless you have no choice. Cellphone 911 calls go to the central valley CHP, for goodness sakes. Use the land line.

The Mrs. gives me one of those, "Tsk...sigh..." things that lets me know she still thinks I'm an idiot, and she leads me back to the driveway and points to the sky about a block over. There is billowing smoke rising into the sky. Something pretty big is on fire over there. Now, in my defense, this is the sky up and to the right of the street I drove in on. Given where the road is and the houses are, there's no reason I would ever have seen this from inside the truck while driving.

Now, the wife is shouting to me over all the sirens, "Call the fire department!"

"Uh...I think they already know. Don't you hear all those sirens?"

The sirens are screaming quite close, then shutting down at what sounds like about a block away. There are at least 4 different vehicles so far.

"What if they don't know where it is?"

"I don't know where it is. What am I supposed to do? Say, 'Hi. I see smoke rising one street over from my house. I think there's a fire there.'?"

"I don't think the firetrucks are going there. It sounds like the sirens are stopping too soon. And the smoke isn't getting any thinner."

"How many different houses do you think are on fire within 1 block? Do you see any other giant clouds of billowing smoke? And just how fast do you think you can put out a fire that big? I bet it takes more than 30 seconds."

"I still think you should call 911 just to be sure."

"Why don't you call 911 while I take The Childrens over to see the fire? Or go inside and get the pohlice scanner."

The Childrens are, at this point, jumping up and down in the bed of my pickup truck watching the smoke. MaxieC shortly thereafter digs a golfball out of one of the tiedown pockets in the bedliner and starts rolling it around. He and HannieC begin to fight over it.

"You are not taking The Childrens to see the fire. That's not safe. Kids, inside right now!"

We get inside. I point to the phone on the counter and say, "OK. Call 911."

"I think they probably know where the fire is by now."

Here's a google earth shot of 'hood, with thumbtacks on my house and the fire house.

After dinner, HannieC was practicing viola and piano with The Mrs., and I snuck off with MaxieC to see what was what. The house appeared to be gutted by fire. Interestingly, there was a construction dumpster in the driveway, so I'm guessing some contractor touched something off. Maybe a plumber. Plumbers are always setting houses on fire with their soldering torches.

There were 2 fire engines, a fire truck, a special equipment vehicle, and a chief's truck still on scene. The roof of the garage was still smoldering, and there were guys up there cutting holes in it with a big giant chain saw while someone inside the garage sprayed a fire hose up. So MaxieC got to see some real firemen work on a real fire, but he (and I) missed the real action.

We were standing across the street next to the fire hydrant. A woman came out of one of the houses, walked up to us, and said, "I wish they could have hooked this up without it leaking." Then she picked a piece of garbage (a surgical glove) out of the gutter that was marginally blocking some of the runoff from flowing down the street, and said, "There. Now at least it will drain a little better." And she wandered off.

It's bizarre what some people worry about.



You guys are a riot!! ifofjn

Wife said...

Look at our beautiful back yard on that map.