Fire in the night

We had an eventful night last night and a close shave. I woke up at around 4:15am and thought I could smell burning plastic. My body wanted to go back to sleep but my brain was telling me to go and check it out. I have a very strong sense of smell so I got up, went downstairs, and saw smoke.

I raced from room to room trying to find the source as it wasn’t obvious at first. Perhaps I should have gone back and woken everyone else up but eventually, I found it was coming from the laundry off our kitchen. The door to the laundry is always kept shut and the minute I opened it I was met with a wall of thick black smoke.

We have three smoke alarms but none of them had gone off at this point. They did shortly after I got everyone else out of bed. I then went back to the laundry. I was pretty sure I knew by this point what it was. I had turned on my seed germinator last weekend which applies a very low level of warmth to seeds to help them germinate. I wanted to turn the power off to the contraption but it was on the far wall of the laundry and I couldn’t get there. The smoke was so thick you couldn’t see or breathe.

By now all the smoke alarms were ringing and the kids were at the back door shivering but fine. Ben then tried to go into the laundry and managed to do what I couldn’t which is turn the power off. He just had to feel around for the switch and not breathe. He said it was glowing so we were minutes or maybe even seconds from fire.

Two fire appliances (an appliance is the British word for a fire engine) turned up really quickly. I can’t believe how fast they were. I think they teleported to our house. The firemen went into the laundry, removed the smouldering seed germinator then doused in water. They also inspected the area to make sure there was no risk of another fire and also checked on us. They were terrific.

We all felt very lucky. I won’t be leaving old appliances switched on overnight from now on. I think we’ll also invest in a smoke alarm for the laundry which doesn’t have one. We have high ceilings and sleep upstairs so the laundry had to completely fill with smoke before it made its way to us and woke me up.

The house stinks now and the laundry is covered in soot. I’ve never seen so much in all my life. Here’s the door to the laundry. You can see the soot all around the edge.

On the other side of the door everything is caked in black. The tiles on the wall on the left in this next photo are usually white.

The ceiling is completely black too so I’ve taken the day off work to wash and clean.

I took a video of myself wiping one of the walls.

This is what’s left of the culprit.

I had planted courgettes, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I guess I’ll have to start again. The kids were pleased about the courgettes.

It burnt through the laundry bench.

My public service announcement is make sure you’ve all got smoke alarms and that they’re wired in. Also invest in a fire blanket or extinguisher if you haven’t already got one. It could save your life one day.

11 thoughts on “Fire in the night”

  1. Relatedly, the Scottish rules on fire alarms have changed recently (last month; the change was pending for a long time but delayed because of Covid). They seem sensible to me and unify the requirements for new build, rental and existing private domestic which were previously somewhat different. An *interlinked* alarm in the laundry room would not be strictly required by these rules but does seem like a good idea.

    1. Indeed I just learnt about this yesterday when I rang an electrician to come and wire in a couple more smoke alarms. We don’t have a heat sensor and our CO monitor is not radio linked so I’ve had to spend a fortune on a whole new system. Most of the Scottish compatible ones are all sold out because I guess everyone is buying up! I’m not sure how I missed this legislation but it sounds very sensible to me. There’s no requirement for one for the laundry but I’ll be putting one in there anyway.

      1. There’s no need for the CO monitor to be interlinked. Carbon monoxide is nasty stuff but it’s not quite so urgent as fire and likely to be localised to where the appliance is. From the page I linked above:

        “If you have a carbon-fuelled appliance – like a boiler, fire, heater or flue – in any room, you must also have a carbon monoxide detector in that room, but this does *not* need to be linked to the fire alarms.”

        One of those things it’s easier to think of sitting quietly at your desk but maybe useful to have in mind for any future incidents: did you consider switching off the socket circuit at the consumer unit rather than risk going into the laundry?

      2. Yes, I realised that about the CO monitor after writing my next post and reading more about the legislation. We still need a heat sensor though and that does need to be linked.

        Neither of us thought to use the power board to switch the power off until afterwards. Going into the room to flick the switch was very silly. It might have electrocuted us. Opening a window in the room was also very silly. Touching the door handle without checking first if it was hot was silly too. I think back on the event and we made one stupid decision after another.

  2. Oh, wow – glad it wasn’t worse and that you’re all otherwise okay. What a lesson learnt – and taken on board here. I have a really poor sense of smell, so I wonder if I would have smelt it? However, I’m a ‘sensitive’ sleeper, so I can only hope a different sort of inner alarm would go off in me in the same situation 🤞

    1. I’m sure being a light sleeper would help. But just make sure you’ve got smoke alarms everywhere and that they’re linked so that if one goes off at the other end of the house it sets all the other alarms off too.

  3. What a nightmare! Unfortunately, our NEst Smoke Alarm sensor has expired (10 year life) and is £100 to replace! Must get on with that. Good luck with the tidy up. At last you guys are safe!

    1. Thanks! We have a Nest smoke alarm too and it was the first to announce the smoke. I was planning to buy several more of it but they’re not compatible with the new Scottish regulations which require a heat sensor for the kitchen and for the whole system to be radio linked. The Nest uses wifi which depends on the router which is a single point of failure if the router goes up in smoke.

  4. That’s really scary. Hope the clear up is over for you soon. It’s unbelievable how much damage there is from one small appliance overheating.
    Glad you are all safe.

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