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House fire next door

Old 01-11-20, 07:39 AM
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House fire next door

About noon yesterday, I was walking Pixel down the road when I smelled smoke. Went past the neighbor's house and saw smoke coming out of the rook peak vents. I ran back to the house (didn't have my phone with me) and called 911. I left Pixel at our house and went back to the neighbors. One of the garage doors was open and I moved a couple of cans of gasoline outside away from the house. I went to check the front door and it was unlocked but was not warm so I opened it. The house was full of smoke and I yelled to see if anyone was there. By then our neighbor lady on the other side was walking down the driveway and said the guy staying in the house had tried to put the fire out but had been burned and was at their house. Her husband is a retired doctor and she said they had called for an ambulance.

The first volunteer fireman got there a couple of minutes later and was checking things out. By now smoke was coming from under the eaves. He was on his radio and said we're going to need more manpower and water. Then there were more emergency vehicles there than I've ever seen in our area. This might have been the first time I've ever heard a siren since we moved here. They got to work, hooked up hoses, and started spraying down the exterior on our side of the house. They put on some kind of air/oxygen tanks and went inside to be sure that no one was inside. There wasn't, and there were no vehicles in the garage.

I came back to the house again and got the association directory so that I could call the owners. The owner, Chuck, said that a relative was staying there that had a drinking problem had been staying there and that he was on the way. I feel badly for the owners, they were just trying help a relative and to repay the favor he burned their house to the ground. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital, and then airlifted to Vanderbilt near Nashville. I hope he recovers and gets the help he needs.

The volunteer firemen were great and politely refused my offers of water. The chief is a young lady, maybe 30-35 years old. She stopped by as they were leaving and said that if it flared up to call them and they would be right back out. At 8pm it had flared up so I called. With the forecast wind I didn't want to take any chances. They came out and doused it again. I checked before I went to bed at 11pm and it was fine. Amy set her alarm for 2am and it was fine then too. At 6am it had flared up so we called. 45 minutes later a line of thunderstorms came through and dumped a lot of rain. Hopefully the fire will not flare up again.

I went back and took some photos as I watched.









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Old 01-11-20, 07:48 AM
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Yikes! That’s scary stuff. You’re a very good neighbor.
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Old 01-11-20, 10:24 AM
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Very beautiful area, there my friend. I am sorry about the owner's loss. This will be devastating for them for some time.
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Old 01-11-20, 10:29 AM
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Attic fires seem to be really tough to attain.
even a class 1 department has a challenge.
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Old 01-11-20, 10:37 AM
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Good job on the part of you and your wife!
You do realized that we need to see a photo of a dog with a name like Pixel?
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Old 01-11-20, 10:55 AM
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As there is no relevant cycling content in this thread we are moving it to Foo.
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Old 01-11-20, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by obrentharris View Post
Good job on the part of you and your wife! You do realized that we need to see a photo of a dog with a name like Pixel?
OK.


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Old 01-11-20, 11:46 AM
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Wow...

From a little smoke to burnt to the ground!!!
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Old 01-11-20, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Wow...

From a little smoke to burnt to the ground!!!
Yeah, sadly smoke is usually the precursor to ignition. My father once showed me how smoke can be easily lit and carries back to the source, as it is full of lots of hot volatile gases.

This is why when you hear a smoke alarm... LEAVE NOW! Sudden flames are not far behind.

@speedevil... Nice dog. Looks like he has a ton of personality.
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Old 01-11-20, 12:22 PM
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The volunteer firemen were great and politely refused my offers of water. The chief is a young lady, maybe 30-35 years old. She stopped by as they were leaving and said that if it flared up to call them and they would be right back out. At 8pm it had flared up so I called. With the forecast wind I didn't want to take any chances. They came out and doused it again. I checked before I went to bed at 11pm and it was fine. Amy set her alarm for 2am and it was fine then too. At 6am it had flared up so we called. 45 minutes later a line of thunderstorms came through and dumped a lot of rain. Hopefully the fire will not flare up again.

Glad only the resident was hurt (only one person), and (from the photos) that the trees and vegetation around the house didn't ignite and spread the fire.

Wow, two post-fire flare ups? Your area's volunteers might not get as detailed training as the locals here get (full-time firefighters), but after a fire is extinguished they'll methodically go through the place looking for any potential 'hot spots', hidden wall cavities, enclosed attic spaces, or places where embers might be so that it does not flare back to life. It's considered really bad on the managing fire crew if a fire reignites and has to be dealt with a second time.
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Old 01-11-20, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
@speedevil... Nice dog. Looks like he has a ton of personality.
Yes, SHE does. But she isn't hung up on pronouns - popcorn or mini-marshmallows, yes.
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Old 01-11-20, 01:32 PM
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Reminds me, I need to get the new manager at our apartment complex to check the fire doors. My building has a lot of elderly and disabled folks. Most of the egress ways and inner doors aren't ADA compliant because the building predates the ADA, is generally exempt from federal regulations anyway, and there are minimal local regs for rental housing.

As a result of trying to save money by not making the place handicap accessible, residents bypass the fire doors, jamming them open. As so many people do in life every day, they're trading convenience for safety.

If you've done any fire training in the military (Navy, here) or observed civilian fire training (done both, as a journalist and OSHA inspector), you know how quickly smoke can travel indoors. The larger the building, the more hallways and inner facing doors, the worse the hazard.

The simplest demonstration is the candle trick -- snuff a candle flame, then immediately relight it just holding the flame to the smoke an inch or two above the wick.

But knowing the history of the owners of this building, nothing will be done. The manager will instead post threatening notes on every door and hallway saying residents will be evicted if they block open the egress and fire doors. But they won't actually spend a penny to install handicap accessible doors that would solve the actual problem.
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Old 01-11-20, 04:18 PM
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I served 33 years on my local fire department, 3 as a volunteer and 30 as a full time fire fighter and fire officer. Many people do not realize how fast fires grow or the toxicity of smoke. Fires are not like what you see on TV or in the movies. They are fast, violent and deadly. Depending on the insurance adjusters report I would not be surprised to see that house town down and rebuilt. Even a fire confined to one room can put the occupants out for 8 months to a year for reconstruction.

Hope your neighbor is OK from the burns and thank you for looking out for his property.

Last edited by KenCT; 01-11-20 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 01-11-20, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by speedevil View Post
Yes, SHE does. But she isn't hung up on pronouns - popcorn or mini-marshmallows, yes.
Tell her I am sorry... and should not make assumptions... if she will please forgive me. She looks like the forgiving kind... And I can find marshmallows.

Hey good on you for reporting the fire, and dang, that leafy ground cover looks like just the thing to carry the flames far afield. Wow, lots of flareups... one would think a ton of water would keep that at bay.
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Old 01-11-20, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Tell her I am sorry... and should not make assumptions... if she will please forgive me. She looks like the forgiving kind... And I can find marshmallows.
If you have marshmallows, she won't even remember why you are asking to be forgiven. You will be her new best friend.

She's a "bitza". Bitza this, bitza that - mostly beagle. She will be 3 on April 15.
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Old 01-11-20, 06:53 PM
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Shrudder. My experience was only two months ago, and reading this one gives me the willies.
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Old 01-11-20, 11:52 PM
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Originally Posted by KenCT View Post
I served 33 years on my local fire department, 3 as a volunteer and 30 as a full time fire fighter and fire officer. Many people do not realize how fast fires grow or the toxicity of smoke. Fires are not like what you see on TV or in the movies. They are fast, violent and deadly. Depending on the insurance adjusters report I would not be surprised to see that house town down and rebuilt. Even a fire confined to one room can put the occupants out for 8 months to a year for reconstruction.

Hope your neighbor is OK from the burns and thank you for looking out for his property.
And many folks don't realize how dangerous firefighting can be. Years ago as a newspaper reporter I covered the local police and fire beat. The fire chief at that time was among the best respected in the nation and I learned a lot just from listening to him in his office, and watching him on fire scenes. One of his pet peeves was firefighters taking unnecessary risks to save property after people had been evacuated and taken care of. He had to retrain the entire department to change the macho mindset and emphasize technical skills, better understanding of how fires spread, and containment to minimize collateral damage.

That rethinking seemed to spread quickly around the entire nation and even in my rural hometown I saw a dramatic change in how volunteer firefighters worked, between the early 1970s and late 1980s. And most of the rural fires were carelessness -- burn piles too close to other combustible materials, or left unattended. I remember a cousin next door needing to call the volunteer fire department at least twice because of carelessness with burn piles. They took risks just to save a utility pole or a few pecan trees, but the injuries could be just as severe if something went wrong.

I was surprised my own grandparents' home never had a fire. Granddad couldn't get enough light and put 100, 150, even 200 watt bulbs in everything, regardless of the typical 60 watt maximum rating for most household fixtures. I remember having to rewire lamps and wiring with crumbled insulation from years of overheating. And the wiring in granddad's barn was crazy. Ungrounded outlets, reversed polarity, even a standard household outlet wired for 220V. And PVC pipe used as conduit outdoors, crumbling from UV exposure after several years. It was a fire just waiting to happen. Last time I saw the place a few years ago, long after the property was sold, it looked like the new owner completely redid everything. Gutted the house and redid the interior completely. Razed that old barn.
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Old 01-12-20, 12:12 AM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
And many folks don't realize how dangerous firefighting can be.
​​​​​​On the way to a few hiking trails I love, there's a memorial to the four young firefighters who died there. It's very somber.
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Old 01-12-20, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
And many folks don't realize how dangerous firefighting can be. Years ago as a newspaper reporter I covered the local police and fire beat. The fire chief at that time was among the best respected in the nation and I learned a lot just from listening to him in his office, and watching him on fire scenes. One of his pet peeves was firefighters taking unnecessary risks to save property after people had been evacuated and taken care of. He had to retrain the entire department to change the macho mindset and emphasize technical skills, better understanding of how fires spread, and containment to minimize collateral damage..
Today it called 'Surround and Drown'. If no lives are threatened in a housefire its simply contain the fire and keep it from spreading first, saving the structure is secondary.

Lots of changes since the old days, especially in building review and fire code inspection. That's what I worked in, and the firefighters hated it since it helped reduce the number of fires. I'd equate what they did to mechanics in a car dealership that sold poorly made cars - lots of work for them, but customers don't want poorly made stuff that breaks down and stay away from that brand (or city). They didn't get the analogy.
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Old 01-12-20, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Reminds me, I need to get the new manager at our apartment complex to check the fire doors. My building has a lot of elderly and disabled folks. Most of the egress ways and inner doors aren't ADA compliant because the building predates the ADA, is generally exempt from federal regulations anyway, and there are minimal local regs for rental housing.

As a result of trying to save money by not making the place handicap accessible, residents bypass the fire doors, jamming them open. As so many people do in life every day, they're trading convenience for safety.

But knowing the history of the owners of this building, nothing will be done. The manager will instead post threatening notes on every door and hallway saying residents will be evicted if they block open the egress and fire doors. But they won't actually spend a penny to install handicap accessible doors that would solve the actual problem.
If the local fire department has a fire prevention staff you could contact them about it; send a few pictures, too. multi-tenant housing is a top-priority item for them to look at. I dealt with a lot of that, so know that apartment owners will not spend a dime on upkeep unless absolutely have to; they'd fix water heaters, furnaces, A/C units, but not common doors. I repeatedly fined an owner for defective fire doors (they were older type, but delaminating and would not close properly, and smoke seals were gone.) to the point he had to shell out way more money in fines and lawyer fees (he sued us) that it would have cost less to fix the doors in the first place.
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Old 01-12-20, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by skidder View Post
Today it called 'Surround and Drown'. If no lives are threatened in a housefire its simply contain the fire and keep it from spreading first, saving the structure is secondary.
This makes perfect sense. I questioned why the fire got out of control, judging poorly from the post and photos. What you are saying about let it go and contain makes perfect sense. A house near me, old place like mine, didn’t get totaled but still will undergo a year of cleanup and rebuild before the owners can reoccupy, the rebuild from damage only likely will take longer then a clean buildup.
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Old 01-12-20, 08:56 AM
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Stories like this just help reinforce my belief that you need to be prepared as much as possible. We have about 5 extinguishers located throughout our house and I don't allow any open flames other than the occasional fire in the fireplace. I make sure my wife uses those battery powered candles. No more real candles. I'm not saying that's the reason behind this fire; it may have been smoking or even a gas leak. But I believe in being prepared and cautious.
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Old 01-12-20, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by TakingMyTime View Post
Stories like this just help reinforce my belief that you need to be prepared as much as possible. We have about 5 extinguishers located throughout our house and I don't allow any open flames other than the occasional fire in the fireplace. I make sure my wife uses those battery powered candles. No more real candles. I'm not saying that's the reason behind this fire; it may have been smoking or even a gas leak. But I believe in being prepared and cautious.

It's good to be prepared, but has anyone in the house ever used an extinguisher? During a moment of panic is NOT the time to stop and read the instructions.

Check the dates on your extinguishers and use the oldest one for training. Walk through the steps with everyone in the house, and then have one person actually discharge the thing. I am NOT suggesting building a fire and putting it out... hate to see "training" become the cause of a fire. But when you discharge it, do so into a trash can... they can be pretty messy.

Then go out and buy a new one to replace that oldest one. Also... are your smoke detectors over 10 years old? They contain a tiny bit of radioactive isotope used to ionize smoke and detect it. After 10 years, that bit of isotope is beyond it's half life. Time to replace the detectors then too.
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Old 01-12-20, 02:55 PM
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Keep some boxes of baking soda handy too. A couple of times I've grabbed fire extinguishers to put out kitchen fires in neighbor's apartments and the extinguishers were duds. I've extinguished oven heating elements that burned like fuses just by dumping a bunch of baking soda on 'em and flipping the circuit breaker for the kitchen.

Works for some car fires too, although I've limited it to smoking and smoldering electrical lines under the hood. Once I see flames it's time to bail out. Surprising how many drivers don't keep an extinguisher in their cars. I always had one or two in my vehicles, and mostly used them on other people's cars... usually new or newish cars for some reason.
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Old 01-12-20, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
It's good to be prepared, but has anyone in the house ever used an extinguisher? During a moment of panic is NOT the time to stop and read the instructions.
Valid point, and yes I have. I also agree that it can be quite a surprise setting off your first extinguisher. Although I have not had my wife fire off one of the older expired extinguishers, that is in the near future. So far I've taught her what to expect, to start off at a distance and not try to kill it up close, and I repeat these instructions every couple of months. If there is a fire I would like to make sure that grabbing one of the extinguishers is more of a muscle memory thing than that of thought.
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