It's a brisk fall day. Ellie and I return to Loretta's after lunch, and she is chilled. She had spoken, half-heartily I thought, as if it's too early in the season, of having a fire in the fireplace. I seat myself at the dining room table. "I don't see the flu control," she says, "will you look?"
I come. I look. I fail. I am about to get on the floor and look for the handle up in the chimney.
"There it is," Ellie says, pointing at a lever that moves horizontally over the fire place door. I move it; we hear the flu change position. I return to my newspaper, Ellie lights the log and sits next to me at the table.
Soon ... "I can smell the fire," I say; "should that be?"
I return my attention to the paper.
"Whoop whoop." Suddenly, a smoke detector is blaring. There are three smoke detectors within spitting distance of one another ( code requirement ) at the end of the hall ... one in each bedroom above the door, and one in the hall ceiling, inches from each door. I see no smoke, and I’m positive I need only to move a little air past the detector and we'll be home free. "Which one is it?" I wonder as I scoot down the hall. I find it and wave my rolled up newspaper at it; silence. "I knew it," I said to myself, "darn I'm good," and walked back to the table. Before I sit down it, or another detector, is blaring. "Well, rats," I say, and begin another trek down the hall.
Long story short, we are seeing the smoke that's setting off the detectors, I've exchanged my rolled up newspaper for twelve inch by twelve inch lid to a plastic litter box pail, I'm frantically waving it and I'm unable to silence the detector(s). We have to put out the fire. I douse it with water but this creates, of course, even more smoke.
We have all the windows open, one vertical fan left over from summer is running on high, and we're looking for another, smaller, fan to blow right on the alarm in the ceiling. ( This one seems to the one causing the most noise announcing: "smoke, fire, evacuate, evacuate" loud enough to drown out most commercial jets ). All the noise and/or commotion is bothering the cats, too; their high-pitched yowling is adding to it.
Suddenly, on the apartment door, Bang. Knock. Knock Bang Knock. "Fire department!"
Grateful they didn't break down the door, "Hi, I'm Walter."
Realizing there was no fire danger, they brought a huge fan to the outside doorway at the foot of the steps, and I immediately feel a cold draft from this fan. The lead fireman walks down the hall, saying, "The alarm will not shut off until the smoke is cleared," just before finding and using the kill switch on the detector. Silence. Golden silence.
The fireman determined the fire was, indeed, out, and, inspecting the fireplace, found the flu closed. Ellie and I had closed the flu immediately prior to lighting the log. Well ... no wonder, then
The fireman took Ellie's name for the report, told us there'd be no charge for the call, and we thanked him for coming as he left. Ellie and I, feeling weak-kneed and foolish, sat on the sofa, overwhelmed by thoughts of worst-case scenarios.
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