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Hedge Fire and Aftermath

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Joined: 23 Nov 2003
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2004 4:51 pm    Post subject: Hedge Fire and Aftermath Reply with quote

In 2003 I accidently set fire to my cedar hedge by burning some old wood I'd torn off my back porch stairs. I didn't build a bonfire but used my cement brick barbeque as a firepit.

In 2001 I'd had a summer barbeque for a bunch of friends. After dinner some of the pyros scouted the alley for combustible materials and had a rip snorting fire going which was still smoldering at noon the next day.

When it came time to rid myself of some old lumber I thought using the barbeque was a good idea. WRONG!

I'd been responsible and filled a 10 gallon pail full of water and also brought a five gallon pail of dirt. In addition I dragged the garden hose over to the general vicinity. I cut the old steps in half so they wouldn't stick too far out of the circular pit and added more as the lumber burned.

When I got to the 4th step, I tossed one half in and a shower of sparks lit my tinder dry cedar hedge. Living on the wet west coast, I'm not accustomed to drought conditions. The hedge erupted into a wall of flame. Exercising amazing strength, I heaved the 10 gallon pail to shoulder level and swooshed a wall of water into the blaze. The fire was slightly discouraged and regrouped inside the hedge and rekindled with renewed vigour.

I threw the bucket of dirt into the fire pit to put the original blaze out. That worked but I still had to contend with my burning bush. I tore over to the outside faucet and turned the water on and raced back to a snaking hose spraying water in every direction but where it was needed. I wrestled the hose into submission and began dousing the fire. Success!

At this point, my Chinese neighbour came across the alley and asked if he should call the fire department. I said I had things under control. Just as I spoke the hydro line directly above the hedge began to crackle and pop. I should explain that my hedge abutted my detached garage which houses my beloved Dodge Ram, Zeke, at the other end of the hedge there is a gap of about four feet between it and my house. Another neighbour began yelling at me to stop spraying the fire because I might get electrocuted. I ignored him because, of the two evils, losing my house was greater than being zapped by a deadly charge. I'd realized the risk immediately and persevered defending my home.

Then the hydro line snapped in a shower of sparks and the live end snaked down between the garage and my neighbours fence. My neighbour told me he was phoning the fire department. I nodded and continued battling the smoke and smolders with copious amounts of water. By now I was soaking wet and filthy dirty from the cinders, branches and singed cedar boughs.

The firetruck arrived a few minutes later and five firemen trooped into my back yard armed with hoses and axes. The leader of the group began conversing with me while the rest of the crew investigated the quelled fire. This was after all of them had checked out my wet t-shirt. I was totally amazed that they would be even remotely interested in my physical attributes considering how soggy and grimy I must have appeared.

The firemen talking to me asked what had happened. I told him and he suggested I should alter my story to a backyard barbeque going awry. I obliged immediately. I realized I was now without power and told him I was going to call hydro. He said the crew would stay until Hydro arrived because of the live exposed line laying dormant in a relatively safe position. I nodded and went into the house.

When I picked up my cordless phone it was dead. DUH! Cordless phones need electricity to work. I picked up my cell phone and called hydro. I should explain this was a Saturday afternoon. Hydro told me someone would be there shortly and suggesting I switch off the main breaker in my house. I dutifully went down to my basement.

As I was feeling my way through the darkness to the workshop, I heard running water. As I rounded the corner the noise became louder. In the gloom I saw a waterfall coming from the ceiling and spraying the walls and floor. ACK!! I switched off the main breaker and then began searching for the watermain. I couldn't find it. I reminded myself I had five firemen in my yard and maybe they had a flashlight. I went back outside and asked. Instead of simply giving me one, they all trooped into my basement looking for the shut off valve in all the wrong places. It took about five minutes before they found it in the general vicinity of where I'd said it would be and shut it off.

Now, I was faced with finding a plumber too. I began going through the yellow pages and kept dialing until I got a real person instead of an answering machine. I was told that the repair guy was on the road but he'd call me back right away. I begged the person to not abandon me to the realm of being in the dark and without water. They promised me they wouldn't. Filled with misgivings, I agreed and ended my call. Within three minutes the plumber called me back and told me he'd be there in half an hour! Woo!

By now, my nerves were a complete mess and I poured myself a glass of wine and took it out on the back porch. The fireman told me I should get my husband to trim back the cedar hedge. I told him I lived alone. Once again they all checked out my t-shirt. I retreated to my bedroom and changed out of my sopping wet clothes into something more modest.

I grabbed my wine glass and went back out onto the porch. I noticed that my garage roof was smoking and remarked on it. This prompted two firemen to haul in a ladder and, armed with an axe, one climbed up to have a look. The thought of having my garage roof hacked at wasn't appealing so I defended my turf with fervor. When they were told there was no false walls in the garage building they soaked down the roof and didn't swing the axe. At this moment, my niece and her fiance showed up. Neither her looks of concern nor her fella phased the firemen one bit as they checked her out too! The three of us retired to my kitchen and I poured them glasses of wine.

Then the Hydro guy showed up. He strung a new line from the pole to the house. As he was doing this task the plumber showed up and fixed my burst pipe. The plumber explained that most houses have a weld which is designed to fail in such circumstances to prevent all the copper piping from being electrical current conveyors. I was impressed with the genius of home builders who take such disasters into consideration.

Within three hours of the blaze starting, my home was returned to normal. When the hydro guy expressed an interest in my cement barbeque I told him he could have it. He said it would be wonderful at his summer cottage on one of the Gulf Islands and was grateful I was so generous. I told him I never wanted to look at the damn thing again. He said he'd come by the next day to pick it up. I asked him if he'd like me to dismantle it for him and he told me he'd do that himself and I shouldn't be bothered with such tasks.

I called Michael, my Korean gardener and asked him to come by and take my hedge down. He said he'd be round the next day to do so.

The plumber stayed for an hour and had a glass of wine with us while regaling us with local disasters he'd witnessed in the past fifteen years. I felt so fortunate that I'd had my home put to rights so rapidly. The only bill I had to pay was for the services of the plumber. I didn't get charged or fined for reckless burning either.

Now, fast forward to November 13th 2004. (Another Saturday afternoon.) I lost my internet connection around 1:00 pm. When it was still down at 3:00 pm I decided to phone the internet provider to find out if there was a technical problem in my area. My phone was dead. I checked the other phone in the basement and it was dead too. Using my cell phone I called my brother and asked him to contact the phone company to notify them of my problem. I'd thought it might be because I'd had a phone installed in my dad's room at the facility where he lived and added that number to my bill. Seeing as I'd done that recently I thought they might have mistakenly disconnected my home phone.

Then my cell phone went dead and I had to charge it up before checking back with my brother. By the time I'd got enough of a charge it was after hours at the phone company but my brother had let them know about my problem. He told me he'd run into problems because he couldn't remember my last name or my address. Normally his wife is around to take care of such small details but she was away visiting their daughter and grandson.

The next day (Sunday) I got in touch with the telephone service department and they told me they would be by on Tuesday to take a look at it. Tuesday?? I couldn't very well suggest that this was an emergency situation and accepted that I would be without land line and internet until Tuesday. Regretfully, they couldn't give me an approximate estimate of what time of the day they'd show up but I told them I'd be home all day because I work graveyards. They did tell me they hadn't disconnected my phone though. I spent all Sunday watching DVDs and missing my internet. Sunday night I went to work.

Monday morning when I got home at 5:30 am I checked the phone box in the basement. It looked fine. Then I grabbed the flashlight I'd bought in 2003 (after the hedge fire) and went outside to check the line. I traced the line along the house and began following it across the back yard. Then I saw it! A broken line near the now vanished hedge. I am very impressed that I maintained phone service for over a year considering the circumstances. I'm also incredibly grateful that it didn't break at the same time as my other disasters. If that had been the case I'd have been drinking Scotch instead of white wine.

Now I'm midway through the phone repair. It appears that I won't be billed for this repair either because the phone guy told me my line must be over 30 years old and even if there was a fire it still was overdue for a new line. He had to leave before finishing up yesterday because of a doctor's appointment downtown. He promised to come by today and finish the job. This morning I went downstairs and loosened off all the brass nuts so the job will be easier for him.

I'd like to state, for the record, that I am a fairly handy type of dame. I can cope with a lot of stress and react well in emergencies. Or do I have to make this declaration at the end of such a story? I guess not .. ..
Blockades built, by the ages, can't keep Tigers in their cages.
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Joined: 13 Oct 2003
Posts: 613
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2004 6:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great story Penelope! I added a link to the home page to give it more views (we are in a holding pattern until the paper gets back from the printers or until Friday night when Dan and I cover an event, so I really appreciate being able to get something new for the folks to read - thanks). I also did not know about the plumbing/weld design, you learn something new every day. Anyway, thanks for the story!

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