My Red-Hot Saturday Night

   If you can watch videos on your computer, please watch this one.  It’s only 2 minutes long.   Truly beautiful.  http://www.youtube.com/embed/auSo1MyWf8g?rel=0

            Now to last Saturday night. 

             I had just made a large bowl of organic popcorn and was about to watch one of those British dramas on Netflix.      

            Weather was a bit chilly and rainy so I built a nice, little fire in the woodstove.  It was burning well, sounded good, so I salted the popcorn and turned on the computer.    

            The computer is only five feet from the chimney, which is open on all sides, so I heard the sound immediately.   I knew what it was:              CHIMNEYFIRE!

            That roaring inferno (around 1,800 degrees) created immediate gut-churning dread.   I debated whether to call the fire department, even as I could hear it burning up the creosote in this old-but-perfectly-good, unlined chimney.

            Would the fire department think I was foolish to call them for just a chimney fire?  But no, houses can be burned down by chimney fires.  But would this one go out by itself if I waited until it burned up all the creosote?

            My hesitations were ended when I checked the back of the chimney.  Around the edges of the metal clean-out cover I could see flames and black smoke.  If the metal cover fell off, the inferno would likely burn the house down.   

            So, reluctantly, I called the Washington County Emergency 9-11, a pleasant male voice answered, I calmly told him I had a chimney fire, and that perhaps the fire department might send someone over to take a look.

            He urged me off the phone and he called the Jonesport Fire Department (I live in bothJonesboroand Jonesport). 

            Turns out the Jonesport fire crew was at a fund-raising dance for the fire department right by the fire station just down the street from me.  The fire chief made the announcement; they all piled out and the crew was here in about 75 seconds! 

            Pretty impressive, I can tell you. 

            Two fire engines with sirens screaming and lights flashing, Fire Chief Boyd Crowley in his special vehicle with siren and lights, other vehicles that accompanied them, all crowded onto the 6’ wide side street, creating a great neighborhood spectacle and diversion on Saturday night.

            Houses are close together here in downtown Jonesport, right up against theAtlantic Oceanas befits a fishing village, so what endangers one, endangers all. 

            Fire Chief Crowley came into the house and stayed here with me as we climbed up and down the stairs checking and re-checking the chimney.  He has gadgets which one can point and tell how hot the bricks (or anything) are, plus a heat-imaging thing that shows hot spots. 

            Because the chimney is open on all sides, both upstairs and downstairs could easily be checked for heat.   No bricks got unduly hot; one got a bit over 200 degrees, but that wasn’t enough to do damage.

            The younger fire fighters went up on the roof with ladders and dropped several of what they called “bombs” into the chimney to put out the fire.  Then they poured water down the chimney, which did cause a few small holes in the cement that holds the bricks together.  Not enough to create a problem, though.

            Chief Crowley suggested I not use the chimney until I got it lined with a steel liner, and to get the chimney re-pointed, which I had just had done recently. 

            Final result?  No damage that I can see, few small holes in chimney, no damage to little trees in my yard – now, that’s a wonder what with fire fighters and neighbors wandering around out there in the dark –  and loss of sleep for a couple of nights as I dreamt about fires. 

            Okay, so I will (1) get the chimney lined and (2) get this place free of clutter so more fire fighters and their equipment can fit in here, should necessity arise.

            It’s possible that no harm would have come if I had just let the fire burn out inside the chimney.  But the real danger can be when the roaring inferno throws sparks out the top of the chimney, which can light the roof afire if it’s not raining or snowing. 

            Fortunately, and thanks to the Jonesport Fire Department’s vigilance, that didn’t happen. 

            Small towns can feel confining, but one is certainly safer amongst neighbors than out in the country all alone.  I’ve lived both ways, and each has its bad and good points.   Love the country’s trees and privacy, but love small towns’ closeness and safety when, for example, fire fighters are right down the street and can get here within seconds.      

            Lesson:  keep the chimney cleaned out better.  In Spring, chimneys have been in use all winter and creosote builds up.    

            Will I keep burning wood?  Of course.  The chimney held just fine.  I will put a lining in it because that’s safer.  Also, insurance companies like lined chimneys better than older, unlined chimneys. 

            The Fire Chief burns wood, as do thousands ofMainepeople because: 

            –the supply is local and gives local woodsmen work;

            –it’s environmentally more sound than oil or gas since they are dug out of the earth, transported long distances, and burning those fossil fuels creates CO2 which is adding to earth’s warming;

            –you can get as warm as you like with wood heat.  It can heat you to the core so you’re really comfortable, even on the coldest days.  A furnace that just blows hot air around the room for a few minutes cannot compare.  Wood heat is the best there is.

            Well, that was my Red-Hot Saturday Night.  Hope you never have one of those or worse. 

            Best to You All……………..-Nancy

            PS – The Netflix movie I eventually watched that night (all 3 parts – I couldn’t sleep) on my computer was “Enchanted April,” which I recommend as an excellent escape movie – a happy-ending tale set inEnglandandItalyin the 1920’s.

            And now for some politics.  I recommend this article about our country, including the comments.  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/09

            Let me hear your ideas for solutions to the world’s ills either by commenting here, or by emailing me at cleanearth@acadia.net

            Got your garden going yet?  I’m still planting; in July I’ll plant more Kale, Broccoli and other healthy stuff for fall/early winter harvest. 

            Happy Summer to You. 

            Best -Nancy