The day after the fire

The day after the fire

I didn’t sleep very well last night. I could smell smoke all night and it’s difficult to ignore that when the previous night this same sense of smell helped avert a serious disaster. I kept reassuring myself it was just the left-over smell from the previous night but then when I shut my eyes my mind went to two unpleasant thoughts. I alternated between replaying all the cleaning up of soot I’d done that day – which was about as much fun as cleaning flecks of poo from a dog’s bum – to the feeling I had when opening the laundry door the first time and discovering the smouldering fire.

It was a strange experience. When I first woke up to investigate the smell the night before last, I initially convinced myself that it was probably nothing so when I did discover that it was not nothing but very very real, the image of the wall of thick black smoke that greeted me when I opened the door was like a terrifying moment when you realise the dolphin you were admiring turns out to be a shark. Replaying that image is quite haunting. It almost felt supernatural and looked like a swirly black hole about to suck everything and anything into its deepest, darkest depths.

On reflection, I realise now that I did a lot of dumb things. Firstly, I should not have opened the laundry door so eagerly without checking the door handle. It may have been hot. I should have woken Ben straight away when I first went downstairs to investigate. I also opened a window in the laundry which was not smart. The sudden influx of oxygen might have ignited a large fire. Then I tried to walk into the smoke-filled room to turn the power off. Ben did the same and although he was successful he shouldn’t have done it. We could have cut the power supply from the switchboard in another part of the house. That would have been far more sensible than walking across the laundry in the thick smoke, unable to see or breathe, not knowing what was there, and then touching a switch that may have been live. How silly we were both were!

The kids both coped very well, Daniel better than Elizabeth who was a little anxious and stressed when she was sitting by the back door shivering. Daniel later told me he found the whole experience exciting especially the bit where he got to pee in our backyard because we didn’t go back inside the house until after the firemen had left. That’s teenage boys for you.

Yesterday I rang an electrician about installing a smoke alarm for our laundry. Our other alarms are wired in so I assumed we’d need to do the same for a new one, however I was wrong. The Scottish government has just introduced some new legislation that requires all homes to have a heat sensor for the kitchen, smoke alarms for all hallways and living rooms, and a CO alarm for the boiler room. But it goes even further than this: they must also be radio interlinked so that if one goes off at one end of the house, all the other alarms go off as well. This is very sensible as you may not get woken by a smoke alarm at the other end of your house but you will if it triggers the alarms close to your bedroom.

We don’t have a heat sensor for the kitchen so we’ve had to buy a whole new system of alarms to make sure they all work together. The law came into effect on 1 February 2022 but people have a “reasonable period” of time after this deadline to make the change. The new law is in response to the Grenfell fire in London in 2017.

Quite a few online stores had completely sold out and you have to make sure the ones you buy comply with the Scottish legislation. Most shops will say which ones comply.

Today I was back at work and didn’t do much cleaning. I was a bit overwhelmed yesterday by the scale of the damage so we called our insurance company this morning. Someone came this afternoon to inspect it and they’re coming back next week for major cleaning and decontamination. They’re also going to send a builder/decorator around to have a look. How wonderful insurance is when it all works.

Here’s what was a cupboard of clean towels.

Smoked tea anyone?

11 responses to “The day after the fire”

  1. I’m not surprised by your body’s reaction to stress and not sleeping. What an awful thing to happen. And it’s easy to know the correct and logical thing to do afterwards but how many people would do the correct thing as coolly as all that?
    Glad you are OK and that the insurance seems to be working OK.

    • Thanks, Denise. I feel a little bit bad writing about my difficulty sleeping last night given the situation in Ukraine. I realise our experience is very minor compared to what millions of others in the world have to deal with. We’re very lucky really and have nothing to complain about.

      • Here’s my heads-up for finding out the leccy has gone off at night: Buy a wind up torch and put it somewhere easily accessed and always put it back there.

      • It’s still PTSD to your body though, no matter how much your brain says “I shouldn’t be feeling this.” I was wondering how you were today and hope you are all OK. If something prompts me to be sleepless I do realise it is minor compared with other people’s worries, and that does make me think how much more awful their body chemicals must be making them feel, in reaction to such intense dangers.

  2. Best of luck coping with the aftermath. We only had one ‘clever’ sensor (Nest Protect) in our 3 bed semi. Currently, we have none, until I can allocate funds to buy one!

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