Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Where there's smoke, there's...

Well, we were going to keep the suspense up for another day, but we have to share. The picture in the last post is a parked fire engine. Parked right outside our house. You don't see the ambulance that is also parked outside our house. Nothing to worry about, so don't get your heart rate up.

Late Sunday night there was a storm with a LOT of wind and a LOT of rain. Bethany and I were watching a bit of TV before we went to sleep. Beth said that she smelled smoke. I retorted that her nose was broken, and kept on lounging in true pre-Labor Day fashion.

And then I started to smell something funny, too. It smelled just like a campfire. I inquired if Beth's feet had been washed with soap lately, and she didn't reply. Plus Beth's feet don't smell like they're on fire usually, so... We sniffed around and thought that the smell was coming from the basement area. Our basement is unfinished, and all concrete-y, not very combustible. But, the smell was definitely stronger in the basement than upstairs. (Don't worry Scott, your stuff is still safely tucked away under your drop cloths.)

We couldn't see anything smoking or on fire, and did the rounds of the inside of our house a few times. Nothing.

So, we decided to get the right people involved -- we called the police. Yep. And they sent the fire department as well as an ambulance just in case something exciting was actually happening. We could hear the sirens coming even though I distinctly remember telling the dispatcher on the other end of the phone line that nothing was on fire. The big, noisy trucks with the flashing lights drove past our house, down to the end of the street (we live on one end of Pumpkin Patch Drive) and started backing up to find the right house. Bethany called our next door neighbors to try to mitigate the panic and inevitable heart attack that would follow. I flagged the fire truck down and the crew unloaded in full regalia -- oxygen tanks, fire axes, etc.

To make a long story slightly shorter, the fire crew (in full fire gear, mind you) swept our house from top to bottom, inside and out, to find the source of the woodsy smell that we though was coming from our basement. And the best part? With 3 firemen in full gear walking around our house, the basement, the attic -- it didn't wake the kids!

Well, they smelled it, but they couldn't come up with anything more than Beth and I had. So they went back to their firehouse and commenced to play poker and smoke cigars. Probably not. Beth says that the firemen were "hunky". and more than likely, they went back to the firehouse and commenced watching "My Turn on Earth". It IS Utah, after all.

And with the firemen's assurance that our house was in no apparent danger, we went to sleep.

Then Monday, we made the last post, still not knowing what had caused the smell, but having an experience to share.

Fast forward to today (Tuesday), and I came home from work early because Norm, whom I car pool with each day to work, was having some severe allergies and went home early from work. My family was gone to the in laws in Sandy, so I strolled around the grounds to see how many of my newly spread wood chips had blown into my neighbors' planter beds during the weekend storms. More than a few.

Sorry for the length of this post. I should write a novel.

In the course of my inspection, I found this:

This is just under the eave of our deck, right next to the house. That's an electrical transformer that plugs into the outside power outlet, some wire, and a joiner (can't think of the real term just now) right in the middle of the charred area. These components used to run the landscaping lights in the southwest portion of our yard. What I imagine happened is that with the heavy rain, the joiner/junction got wet enough that it shorted out and super-heated the wire coming from the transformer to the joiner. An electrical fire erupted around the wire, and was then put out by the continuing rain. Here are some more photos that show more of the damaged components.

As the photos show, the wiring was charred right into the transformer box and just past the joiner thing. I'm not sure whether the transformer box is still functional. Those things that I'm holding are some of the wiring that is fused with the wood chips it was on and what's left of the joiner that was in the middle of the charred, burned area by the house.

Before the firemen were at our house, the fire must have gone out. Plus, with it dark, wet everywhere, and windy, you wouldn't see this spot at all.

Now you know what almost went down Sunday night. As my mother would say, we thank our lucky stars that we have a house that isn't black, smoky and mostly open air.


Lori Jolley said...

Well - that is an adventure! I'm glad it wasn't worse! And you know you weren't imagining things! I'm sooo glad it turned out okay!

Tara McLean Derricott said...

Holy Smoke!!! (ha-ha) Glad you are all OK and your home is still standing... Your wood chips look good!!

denkarmcl said...

I won..I wasn't barking up the wrong tree. I guessed it was bark related. I should get a major award. Dad

denkarmcl said...

Wow! Thank your lucky stars........!! :) Mom

Kami said...

haha, you all crack me up!

Davis Family said...

I had no idea you had a blog...don't know how I missed that one. Sounds like a fun time at your house. Glad you found the problem.

Scott said...

You did the right thing by calling the police and having the firemen come. Sometimes fires can happen inside the walls where you cant see them and they spread up into the attic.

Good judgement call, great story.

Grandma Davis said...

Wow, that story gives me the chills. I'm so glad that your house didn't burn. I'm always amazed at some of the close calls that happen. What a blessing that it was rainy. Have you reported what it actually was to the firemen? I wonder what they would say.