Site Meter Elsie's Space: Oh, What a Night!
Location: New England, United States

Not much to tell.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Oh, What a Night!

Filled with excitement, that's for sure. It started out quietly enough. The children were doing their homework. I was preparing dinner, busy chopping vegetables.

The phone rings.


"This is ABC Security calling. Please give me your password." ABC Security is our alarm company, but they've only called once in the seven years we've lived here.






"Yes, that's it. We're showing a fire at this address."

"What?" (And how long were they going to let me try to guess my password without telling me there's a fire?)

"There's an alarm indicating a fire at your address."

"Okay. I don't see, hear, smell anything."

"It indicates it's in the attic."

"Okay. Just a minute." I go to where the ladder/stairs pull down to access the attic. I can hear popping sounds. Back to the phone.

"I can hear some popping noises, but can't see or smell anything."

"Could you please go up there to check?"

"Sorry, I can't. (I can't believe I feel the need to explain). I just had surgery and can't pull the stairs all the way down or climb up."

"We'll have to send the fire department then."


"Please exit the residence."

No need to tell me that. "KIDS, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE RIGHT NOW!! WAIT. TAKE THE DOG!!" They look at me like I'm nuts, but they must know I mean business, because they're out in record time. Me, I'm barefooted. Go to get my sneakers. Crap. They're on the floor. Doctor's orders -- absolutely no lifting or bending. So I leave barefoot.

"What's going on, Mom?"

"The alarm people called and said there's a fire in the house." Katie starts to cry. "It's okay, honey. We're all outside." And then we hear the sirens. Lots of sirens. The dog starts acting crazy. "Take the dog to the tennis court and shut the gate. Stay there until I come for you."

The fire department arrives, sirens wailing, lights flashing. Three "regular" engines (I don't know what they're called), a ladder truck, and a rescue.

"Ma'am, we received a call from your alarm company. Which way to the attic?"

Ma'am. I hate that. Should I call him son? "Through the door, over the stairwell on the right."

He runs in. Then come more men and more and more. At least 15 firefighters descend upon my house. I look at the kids and can see that my daughter is in serious distress. I go toward them and get them to come out. We stand there, far from the house, just watching. These guys sure seem to know what they're doing. But why are they all running into my house with axes?

Then the Chief pulls up in his own car. Hell, the Chief. It must be bad.

Then one firefighter comes out and says, "Ma'am (again?), we can't find anything inside. Did you call your alarm company?"

"No. They called me saying there was an alarm indicating a fire in the attic. I could hear some popping sounds, but couldn't get up there, so they called you."

"Well that explains it, I think. Something activated the alarm, and your speaker was trying to turn on but couldn't. It was your speaker making the popping sounds."

"What speaker?"

"There's a speaker in the attic that should have sounded. We were listening for your alarm on the way over, and that explains why we didn't hear it. You need to get the alarm company over hear to check it. Your system was inspected last February, but something's not right. We also checked your smoke detectors (they're separate from the alarm system -- fire codes and all that). They seem to be working fine, but since there was no smoke, they didn't sound."

Then, one by one, firefighters exit my house. They're very friendly, all smiling. Then the Chief comes over. "We didn't find any sign of fire, but there's a couple of guys still in there with the infrared sensor. They should be out in a while."

Three young men come out, perhaps twenty minutes later. "Ma'am, we went over your house thoroughly with the infrared sensor. It shows any hot spots. We went over all the walls, the wiring in the attic, the space over your garage and family room. Everything looks fine. No sign of heat at all."

"Great, thank you so much."

The trucks begin to leave, one by one. The last group out gives us big smiles and waves. We wave back.

"Okay, let's go finish making dinner."

"Are you sure it's okay, Mom?" asks my little one.

"Yes, sweetie. We've got the safest house on the block now. Who else had their whole house checked with that special sensor thing within the last few minutes?"

She gives me a big smile. My boy, David, says to his little sister, "You can hang out with me, if you want." He takes her hand and leads the way into the house. She's still not sure about that. "Did they check my room?" "Yes, they said they checked the whole house, that's why we had to stay outside for so long."

Things start to seem normal again, until the phone starts ringing off the wall. Neighbors calling to see what's happened and if they can do anything. It's still a busy, crazy time. Finally, my husband makes it home from work. The kids can't wait to tell him all about it.

I finally get the chance to sit down. The phone rings -- again. Hubby tells me it's a friend of mine from up the street. She's just checking on us, like everyone else. Then she asks, "So what did you grab to take with you?" I explain about leaving the sneakers. She says, "No, you know how they ask what you'd take with you in an emergency? What you'd save?" I reply, "Nothing. Not a thing. I took the kids and the dog (the cat was already outside). That's it." "Are you kidding me, you didn't take anything?" "Nothing."

Later last night, I got to thinking. I didn't take anything. That's completely wrong. I TOOK EVERYTHING, everything that really means something to me. Sure, if my home had gone up in flames, it would have been devastating. But it really is only a place where we live. Live. Alive. My family. They're all I really need.


Anonymous Jack in Paris said...

Nice story.


5:40 PM  
Blogger Elsie said...

Thanks, Jack. I only wish I had opened the new camera box so I could have included some photos. Then again, I probably would have left the camera in the house anyway. I'm just thankful that we're all here and I'm able to "chat" with you.

6:26 AM  
Anonymous Winston said...

All sounds familiar. We had a similar experience a couple of months ago. Standing in the driveway watching helplessly as a dozen masked men with space age gear take over your house - scary!

You were correct that you got the things that mattered out of the house. For an alternative view, see:

6:42 AM  
Blogger MaryB said...

Yes, you took everything that mattered. A similar thing happened to me years ago and I just made sure the family got out.

All that time wasted speculating, "In case of a fire, I'd grab . . . "! Pah!

Glad you were safe. (O, your aching back!)

7:26 AM  
Blogger Elsie said...

Winston, the alternative view was interesting, but I'll stick with mine. When talking to my friend who asked what I took with me, I mentioned that I had a box prepared for emergencies (marriage and birth certificates, social security cards, etc.), but I never even thought to take it. All I cared about was getting the kids (okay, the dog too) away from the house. Perhaps she didn't have children so her P drive was the most important thing in her life (seems sad to me). What really got me was the using the bathroom thing. What was she thinking?!!

I hope that your experience ended as happily as mine.

Mary, a woman after my own heart. I say Pah!, too. And I hope that your fire situation didn't get too out of control. And the back's doing pretty great, thanks!

9:14 AM  

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