Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Your House is on FIRE! - and other things I got to say this week

On my way home from Zumba a couple days ago, I passed a house with furniture burning in the carport.

My first thought?  "Baaad breakup."  Seriously.

But then I realized I didn't see anyone outside screaming "Take that, you asshole!" And I backed the car up to double-check.

Nope, uncontrolled fire in the carport, and licking its way towards the house. No persons with a hose trying to put it out.

So I called 911, and I gave them the address and situation, and they hung up on me! I would like to believe the call was dropped, but there were weird typing/transfer noises that indicated things were happening on the dispatch end, and then it hung up.

I called them back, and tried again. This time the dispatcher did not hang up on me, but asked questions. Where, how far from the house, blah blah. Then we both hung up.

The house seemed unoccupied (10:45 a.m. on a Tuesday), with the only car off to the side of the driveway, but I got out anyways, and went to bang on the door. I heard a little dog start barking furiously.

"Crap." I thought. I banged on the door again and yelled, "Your HOUSE is on fire!" I went back to the car, to find something to possibly break a window with, so I could let the dog out before the fire got to the house. Just as I got to my car, the homeowner poked her head out of the door, looking sleepy and confused.

I yelled, "Your house is on fire! You need to get your dog and get out!"  She started to come out, and I yelled, "Call your dog!"  She ducked back inside, and I could have kicked myself. Never let someone go back into a building that's on fire. Cardinal rule of fire safety. The fire was just starting to go after the carport, so I didn't immediately yell at her to come back. She came out again within the three minute mark of me going to yell at her again, with a large tabby and a little bichon frise-looking puppy the size of a chihuahua.

We put the pets into my car. Luckily, they did not seem disposed to mess with the baby in the car seat who was saying "Doggy! Doggy! Cat! Cat! Doggy!" They sat very nicely in the back seat. The dog roamed around a bit nervously, but the cat found a comfy spot, and assumed the meatloaf position with the placid acceptance of any obese cat in a situation that shows no signs of involving food, pettings, or being chased.

My husband is a paramedic with the fire station literally a half-mile away, so I was really curious to see who would show up.  First on the scene was the battalion chief in the special "Chief truck!" He confirmed that I wasn't a crazy, and that the fire was real. Then he got a fire extinguisher out of the truck and ran up to the house. By this time, the carport was going up, and I wasn't sure how much good he was going to do, but I found out later that he was trying to surround the fire so it wouldn't spread.

Next was a fire truck from another station, and then my husb rolled up in his truck. He yelled at me to Go Home! (With a smile), and I yelled back "I can't! I have her pets in the car!"  He paused. "With my daughter?!"  "They're very nice animals!"

He checked on the homeowner while she watched the FD put out the fire, and then went to verify that I had not in fact left our child to be eaten alive by strange pets. (And to play peekaboo with the buglet.)

The homeowner's mother showed up shortly after, and we tried to transfer the animals to her car. The dog went easily, but the cat dug ALL four feet into the seat, and had to be forcibly dragged out of the car. No yowling, no biting, just a narrow-eyed determination to keep all fifteen pounds of cat planted precisely where it was.

The mom and the homeowner both thanked me, and I went home feeling proud of myself for not screwing up my role as a good neighbor.

Now I told you that story to tell you this one.  I posted about it on Facebook, feeling that I had had an interesting morning. I got a deluge of "WOW YOU'RE A HERO!" I got really upset. Because what I did was not heroic. It was what you SHOULD do as a decent human being. It is what I would hope any random person would do.  It is a major part of my belief system that deep down, people will do the right thing when pushed.

I complained to my husband, and he confirmed that in fact, it is NOT the common action of people calling 911 to either stick around, or bang on the door, or even to call and give the dispatcher full information.

It shouldn't be that way, I argued.  It is, he replied. But it shouldn't be.

I don't care what he says. I'm going to keep my faith in humanity's better half.  And I did get a reasonably good idea for a short story from the whole thing, so hey. Win, win.


  1. Good for you. Maybe not Medal of Honor worthy heroics, but certainly worth the Neighbor of the Year award.

    Everyone wants to save the world, but no one wants to help mom wash the dishes. They all want to to great big things, but none are willing to put themselves out for the neighbor. I'd rather a good neighbor than a hero.

  2. Good job! I'm with you, that is exactly what you would hope any neighbor would do. I don't want such normal things to be considered heroics because I want everyone to jump in and do the right thing. It doesn't take Superman to make a call.
    Regardless, good for you.

  3. I came over from Sean's blog. Thanks for doing what you did. I sure hope my neighbors would do the same.

    Having neighbors you can depend on is important, people. Get to know yours.