Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Close Call

This is a different type of post - no woodworking this time.  We had a very close call with fire on Wednesday.  We live in a townhouse complex and each building has four units.
Image result for westcourt mountain view
A typical building - there are two more attached units to the right of these two
We live in the unit third from the left (behind the tree in the above pic).  As I was heading out for a bike ride Wednesday morning, there was a commotion in the left-most unit.  Turns out a coffee roasting machine caught on fire in the garage, which was open at the time.  In less than 5 minutes the garage entrance was a HUGE wall of flame.  Fortunately nobody was hurt, but the two-car garage unit was destroyed - either by the flames, the smoke or the water that doused it.

Thanks to some heads-up thinking by painters who have been working on our complex, the resident was alerted and got himself and his kid to safety (wife wasn't home).
The next day (our townhouse is behind and to the right of the tree on the right)
Another view - flames leaped from left side of garage up to
roof soffits and completely destroyed the attic / roof
The one-car garage unit between our house and the burned-out house was not burned, but was damaged by smoke and water.  Our unit was spared.

A neighbor across the way had a surveillance camera that caught some of this on video.  Here is a link to the video .  Note the timing and how quickly this went from almost nothing to raging inferno!!

I'm not showing this for entertainment or for the shock value.  I'm showing this to get you to ask yourselves a question: do you have a plan in case of emergency - be it fire, flood, tsunami, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, etc.?  You can't believe how fast something can turn really bad.

So, do you have a plan?  My wife and I have been talking about this.  We didn't have a plan before. We do now.  It includes knowledge of where fire extinguishers are and how to use them, exit plans, what to get out of the house (people, pets, computer).  It includes periodic checking of smoke alarms and periodic review of the plan so we know what to do.  And I'm going to set a calendar reminder every three months to review the plan.

This has the whole neighborhood shaken up.  It's three days later and I'm still shaky - and our unit wasn't even damaged.  But it could have been if it were not for an aggressive fire chief and crew (those guys and gals kicked ass).

By the way - this complex had another fire that destroyed two units about 10-12 years ago (before we moved here).  The cause of the fire was oily rags balled up and thrown into a bin.  The owner had been staining a deck with some kind of oil based stain.  The rags heated up and spontaneously combusted.  Sound familiar?  We woodworkers have heard about this so many times (and many of us have doubted that it could happen).

Have a plan.  Review it periodically.  It could save your life.


  1. Wow, that is a scary video to watch. I'm glad that you and yours were enscathed, but feel for the occupants of that unit. Fire is unforgiving. I agree, everyone should have a plan. I know we do.
    One suggestion. Keep a portable hard drive with important info, family photos, ect. at an off-site location. Periodically update it. It is surprising how much of our lives are digital.

    1. That's a good idea, Greg. I'll float it by "management". There's also "the cloud", if you trust your stuff there.

  2. A good thing that nobody got hurt.
    I guess I am a bit influenced by my job, so I always make a plan whenever we travel by ferry. I want to know where the kids are, and where the muster station is, the nearest emergency exit etc. Not that I am paranoid, but a little bit of forward thinking and planning will help you get a long way.
    I am going to watch the video when we get back to port. Right now there is not enough band width on the Internet connection for it.

    1. Hi Jonas. It's a great idea to be aware of what's around you, wherever you are. You never know what might happen.

  3. Wow and thankfully you were spared. But you are right, most of us would never thought of such plans until too late. Hard earned lessons...
    Myself, being a veteran, I am always doing very much like Jonas, always feel the need to know my environment and have a plan in the back of my head :-) You can take the man out of the military, but never the military out of the man, is not just a saying :-)

    Here at home, in case of emergency, all I have to do is grab the small hard drive box sitting on my desk, a WD 1 TB drive. It backups my PC automatically and I could recreate its image on any machine.
    Off site storage alternate, is also wise and I don't trust the cloud...
    BTW your neighbour camera has the perfect view to monitor his driveway and access. Hi res too...

    Bob, who is glad you are OK and understand why you are shaken

    1. Hi Bob. "Hard earned lessons" is right. Too bad it takes something like this to drive some sense into me. I hope anybody reading this will take it to heart.

      BTW, I don't trust the cloud either!

  4. It looks like you were lucky. If the FD was a couple of more minutes in getting there the fire could have destroyed the entire building. Food for thought for sure and glad no one was hurt.

    1. Hi Ralph. Our closest fire station is only a quarter mile away, so they didn't have to come from too far away. But there were crews here from other stations as well. So thankful for that.