So last night, just as I was nodding off, Hubs and I heard the smoke detector beep. It started slowly at first, and honestly we both thought it was malfunctioning. Just as we were getting out of bed, Stepson#2 burst into the room and yelled FIRE! As soon as we left our bedroom we could see that the house was filled with a thick, layer of white smoke and it smelled awful. Like burning plastic. My first thought was that I must have left the oven on, or maybe a burner on the stove, but as I ran towards the kitchen I really couldn’t see anything, so we grabbed the pugs and a jacket each and headed outside. As Stepson#2 called 911, I stared at our house in disbelief waiting for it to burst into flames or explode or something. It was very surreal.
It took the fire trucks about 3-4 minutes to show up, which when you are worried that your whole house might be destroyed seems like a much longer time than it really is. The firepeople (is that the politically correct term? There were both firemen and firewomen) were very nice and reassuring as they asked us if we knew what was going on. We told them about the house filling with smoke, and they headed in. They took a hose and various heat sensing equipment in with them to find the issue, but we still didn’t see any flames.
We stood out on the sidewalk for about 2 hours, lucky for us it was not too cold – especially for February in Calgary. Luck was definitely on our side. The pugs were a little cold, and a little stressed, but all things considered they handled all the commotion like champs.
Finally, someone came out to talk to us, and tell us what was happening. Apparently our furnace malfunctioned and caught on fire. For some reason the auto shutoff switch did not work (probably because it melted) and the furnace pumped a smelly white smoke through all the vents in the main part of our house. The smell came from the components in the furnace that were burnt and melted. At this point, they brought us the keys to the Highlander (the vehicle on the driveway) and let us sit in there which was much more comfortable, and much warmer too!
They had an emergency ATCO gas man go in and inspect everything, here is his official diagnosis:
He cleared us to go back in the house, which was such a relief! The firepeople used big, industrial fans to clear all the smoke, so things were looking much better by the time we got to go back into the house. I think this was probably about 4am or so. I was so tired, but so happy to find our house virtually unscathed. They didn’t even really mess anything up! They moved some things around, made giant boot prints in the carpet (no dirt though) and took some pictures off the walls, but that really wasn’t a big deal. Phew!
The fire Captain was very nice and chatted with us for a bit. He reassured us (me especially) that if it wasn’t safe, they would never clear us to stay here. I was a bit nervous as you can imagine. We actually have two furnaces, which was good in one way as it meant we still had heat in the bedrooms, but bad because I was very worried that it might do the same thing. They also left us a few extra smoke alarms as they found one of ours to not be working properly, so that was good. Unfortunately, there was not much they could do about the smell. It still smells awful!
As soon as everyone left, we headed down to the furnace room to scout out the damage. It really doesn’t look like much. Everything in the furnace room is fine, except for the furnace of course. It’s a bit hard to see, but you can see some scorch marks (most of it happened right inside) and the white powdery stuff is actually soot. It must have gotten extremely hot.
So needless to say, tomorrow we are having 2 new furnaces installed. The guy who came out today to look at the mess and give us a quote for a new furnace said that in all his years, he has never seen anything like this. He isn’t 100% sure why it happened, but basically the furnace is old (it’s original so about 24 years old – YIKES!), worn out and it malfunctioned. Pretty freaky, but in the end it was our smoke detectors that saved us. PLEASE, PLEASE make sure you have some in your living space and please make sure they work.
I laid awake in the wee hours of the morning playing the what if game (I couldn’t sleep and I am a worry-wort), but in the end I am just so grateful that it wasn’t worse. We all got out safe, no one has any injuries (including NO ill effects from smoke inhalation) and our house is fine. Yes it will cost us money to install new furnaces, but it could have been so much worse. So much worse, let’s not even go there.
I am so grateful! So, so grateful. Everything today was just a bit brighter and more rose-colored. And considering I slept for about 4 hours, I’m feeling pretty good!
Have you ever had a fire in your house? What makes you feel grateful and lucky?