Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Excitement at the Cabin

As the snow started to move in yesterday, the cabin began to get colder and colder. And, as a concerned and very cold mom, I decided to start yet another fire in the woodstove. I bet I've lit 1000's of fires. Seems innocuous enough, right? Not so much. Once I got it up to a meager 200 degrees (and on the way up to 600), the flue pipe began to make a funny noise, like someone was dropping sand or gravel down it. Then the cabin began filling with smoke. Not just any smoke, but a toxic, melted plastic smoke. I sent Ike outside to check the portion of the flue that goes outside. Evidently, smoke was pouring out the wall...not a good sign. Neither was the melting, charring wall inside where the flue pipe penetrated the wall. At this point, I sent the kids outside with the dogs and computers and had them hook up the hose in the pump house standing guard and ready to spray the outside walls. I stayed inside and put the fire in the stove out and started spraying down the flue pipe and walls and opened the back and front doors for ventilation. I was able to get the wood stove cooled down to 100 but the smoke still rolled out. So, with the biggest part of the excitement over, we sat on the front porch and waited for the local volunteer boys (911 couldn't locate us on the map and evidently didn't tell the boys to bring a brush truck NOT an engine) and MacGyver to get home (he's always on shift when the bad stuff happens). And then it started to snow. Yes, I almost laughed. So, I sent the kids to the camper with the dogs, computers, and snacks and told them to get back to their schoolwork. I'm pretty sure that didn't happen and never had it in me later to even ask. So, as I waited, I washed a few dishes, made my bed (yes, sometimes vanity wins over safety) and waited some more. And at some point one lonely, bunker gear-laden guy appeared on the drive huffing and puffing carrying nothing but a radio and fire extinguisher. I actually thought he hauled it (and bum) up the hill the 1/2 mile to our house. Evidently, he couldn't make it in the engine I told them not to bring and had to go back for his personal vehicle (POV). He then blew the extinguisher in the wood stove and about that time the fire marshall arrived via the sheriff's officer and his 4x4 vehicle. At this point MacGyver arrived from 45 minutes across town about 5 minutes behind the fire department. Makes a body feel safe, huh? And as they ripped the flue from the wall and exposed the source, we realized it wasn't quite a creosote fire as first expected within the chimney, but the insulation within the walls that was actually on fire and burning though the walls. Oh! That explains the nasty, toxic smoke that was burning my throat and nose...Hydrogen Cyanide. I learned 10 years ago in my Fire I class that it is the toxic fumes given off from the materials we build and furnish our houses with that generally kills you before the flames get to you. Isn't that a nice thought? And then the guys proceeded to try and recruit MacGyver to volunteer for their department...three different times. Sadly, the station is only 3/4 of a mile down the mountain from us. Makes a body feel safe, somewhat safer. Actually, to be fair, there were multiple factors working against these poor fellows...
  1. the lack of an actual address
  2. even 911 was confused
  3. an unmarked and unknown road
  4. a narrow road no wider than a large truck
  5. mud, lots of mud, and deep ruts
  6. it's on the side of a mountain
  7. it started snowing and made a bad road situation so much worse
And, although it began as a potentially life-threatening situation, it actually became quickly less so with the aid of two very helpful, quick-thinking and focused children and their sometimes calm and quick, sometimes able-thinking mother. MacGyver was able to put the chimney back together and start a fire, with no more least not another fire.

Unfortunately, the day continued to digress as the night waned. MacGyver broke the front door. The panel that was, yes was, holding the door handle completely broke off when he went to close the door and head for bed. And true to his name, he "MacGyver-ed" it up and went to bed, but not before we had a foot of new snow on the ground. I was very thankful he was able to leave work and come home...for several reasons. They left a big gaping hole in my wall. I wouldn't have, nor could have out of necessity, been able to light a fire. I wouldn't have known how or been able to fix the front door. And he possibly would have been stuck at work with all this snow; especially if someone had called in 'sick' because they couldn't get out. I don't think he was very glad he was home last night. I'm pretty sure he was what I call "D-O-N-E". I think the full night of sleep, sleeping in to 8:00 and waking up in his own bed and the smell of bacon gave him a change of heart. I'm glad. I'm also thankful the whole fire thing was not something while we were sleeping or gone. God is so good to us! So, this morning, we have a nice quiet fire in the wood stove, full tummies, 2 feet of snow and he's off to get the Bobcat and work magic on our road. Ah! The smell of normalcy is so much better than Hydrogen Cyanide!

1 comment:

  1. Oh my! Reminds me of when I was 12 we moved to upstate NY, dad bought a sawmill, built a log cabin one summer while living in our travel trailer. My mom and I canned 800 qts. while he and my brother's built the cabin. 100 acres. bordered by 100's of state land. Anyway, the woodstove in the kitchen that my mom cooked on began to roar and you could hear that dripping like sand that you describe. Then the pipe got beat red! I ran outside and flames were shooting out the flu! Called for dad at the barn. Called the fire dept. CHIMNEY FIRE! Scariest thing ever! Fortunately, it put itself out before they got there and all was well. We had handmade wood shingles on the roof so it's a miracle it didn't burn down. I KNOW exactly how you felt! My heart throbs just thinking about it....
    I'm proud of you for doing all you do at your young age and you will enjoy hearing the stories your children recount as they grow up. At the time, I wasn't so thrilled all the time about the experience. Mostly I was though. Now it was lifechanging for me. I can be totally self sufficient and it prepared me for here... Life is grand!