Well, I finally have the answer to the question we all ask ourselves, but none of us ever want to have verified.
The question: What would you grab if your house was on fire?
Ok, take a breath...we're all fine. There is no real damage and the house is only slightly smoky as I write this.
About (ok, exactly, it's seared into my brain) 10:00 last night, we were going through our normal shut down procedure for the night. I was turning off TV and lights and getting the bed ready. Brian was taking his meds and stoking the fire for the night. I had fresh sheets for the bed warming in the dryer and when I walked through the kitchen, I heard a deep thrumming sound, rather like the subwoofer was turned up too high, but it wasn't on. I got the bed made and slipped in. I had just settled my pillows and found my page in the book when Brian bellowed a special version of "DEBRA!" I leapt from bed and by the time my feet hit the floor, he followed it up with "Get dressed." Special Note: Know where there is a set of warm clothing available for emergencies at all times.
As I dash through the house, pulling on clothes (and noticing it was 10:14), Brian is moving fast in the dining room, making way and grabbing the fire extinguisher, telling me "we have a chimney fire." I ask "am I calling 911?" He hits the pipe on the top of the chimney with chemical fire retardant, then says yes. I start the emergency call, then hand it off to him on details of what he's seeing. While we wait for the fire department, I start to gather by the front door those things that will not be left in the house if we have to leave.*
The fire was contained to the pipe that Brian installed in the chimney. Yes. That pipe and quick action saved the house from burning. I am still dealing with the reality of how close we came to disaster. The wonderful men and women from Brandon Fire Department graced our home (awfully nice, polite, and considerate of protecting our home from their snowy boots!) and made sure there was no danger of the fire spreading. They dumped chemical down the top of the chimney, and then completely cleaned out the fire box of all wood and embers. That was quite a trip because Brian had just
filled it up for the night and the fire was still going strong. They had to take the burning matter out and put it in our ash can, then go dump it out in the snow in a safe area. It took about six or seven trips. The house was smoky, but we turned on the attic fan to suck it all out, but that made the house frigidly cold.
We had a nice, long chat with the senior fire fighter, who let us know what happened and how to prevent this from happening ever again. The reason for the fire was creosote build up. This blew us away, because we've only been burning this fireplace for two months and the pipe we put in was brand new. Because of the way we run our fireplace (low to conserve wood), and because we didn't have a good summer for seasoning wood (meaning more green wood which produces creosote), the pipe actually was clogged with creosote. Brian had gotten rid of a little cardboard trash while stoking the fire, which made for a quick, hot flash of fire, which caught the excess creosote on fire in the chimney. A little air and we had a jet created. The pipe was glowing red hot and sparks were coming from the top of the chimney.
So, what we learned about burning they didn't teach us at the place we got the fireplace. The way this is supposed to work is that the first fire of the day (my job) needs to be really hot. This will burn off any light residual creosote buildup from a low fire through the night. Then, once a month, we need to run a chimney brush down the pipe (we were told that we only needed to do this a couple of times during the burning season). We need to call and get a professional chimney sweep to come out and clean our pipe right now before we burn again. Brian will also call and get a safety inspection done to make sure the pipe is sealed properly.
The nice lady firefighter came over to chat with me a moment while I was trying to stay out of everyone's way. She told me we had a beautiful home. I thanked her for being here to help save it. Oh...there...finally, all of the emotion that I was expecting last night finally hit. *takes a break* Ok. I was a little baffled that I went to sleep after all this was done and slept fine. My head just finally let it sink in. I was feeling a bit like Scarlett O'Hara.
*So what did I grab? Here's my list, gathered in about 4 minutes, in order of bringing it to the front door for quick evacuation:
NoNaMe, my parrot.
My current knitting project
My coat, hat, gloves