If you don’t read my blog regularly, you may not be aware that I live on a boat, which has consequently led to my treating the café of the local boatyard as my office. I work on my laptop from there pretty much every afternoon and have done for the last six or so months, which means that I know the lady that runs the café and everyone on the boatyard pretty well by now, and have actually started helping out in the café now and then when things are busy.
The café itself is an old wooden shed-thing that sounds more grotty than it is-it is in fact over 100 years old, and started life as the local village’s Sunday school back in the day.
This is all background info that may be necessary for context given the title of this blog-I’m going to talk about some of the mad shit that happens when something is on fire.
Anyway. I was sitting outside of the café yesterday writing my monthly blog roundup in the 28 degree sun, sticking to the seat and generally being as moany and miserable about the heat as everyone else was.
I turned around to say hi to someone, and spotted a little plume of smoke at the outside corner of the café, and sort of stared at it blankly before saying “smoke!” I stood up, saw a tiny little flame, and upgraded my statement to “fire!” As I started to run towards the café, I realised that none of the four or so people nearby (nor the lady actually in the café) had heard me-or if they had, they hadn’t registered it-so I proper screamed FIRE! THE CAFÉ IS ON FIRE FIRE FIRE!”
In the time it took me to get to the corner of the café and see what the fuck was occurring, the tiny little lighter-flame sized burny stuff grew up, and started licking right up the corner of the building, with the creosoted wood of the corner catching and the huge wisteria that covers all of the front of the caff taking light too.
By this time other people had started running, still in stage one-the “OMG FIRE” stage. I had moved on by then and was shouting “SOMEONE BRING AN EXTINGUISHER!” at the same time as noticing the fact that the various electrical wires on that corner of the building were sparking too.
The first person to find their feet came charging up with a CO extinguisher that I used without much luck, so I went charging into the café, pretty much batted the café lady out of the way and grabbed a new powder extinguisher before running back out.
I have deployed one of these before and know that they only last for a few seconds, so I was already shouting for another one, as well as yelling in a panic “It’s catching, it’s catching!” as flames started coming out from the underside of the building too.
Three or so people started feeding me a succession of extinguishers whilst also trying to work out how to activate them and use them, which actually made things a bit worse as I was having to yell at them to stop, because some of them were unsuitable. Simultaneously, one of the boatyard boys rocked up with a hosepipe, so I then had to get through to him in his panic that this was not ok because of the electrics, and at this point, the café lady’s daughter called the fire brigade.
Doing this in the first place would have been wise, but all of the above happened in about 20 seconds, and I just flat didn’t believe that the building could have caught as fast as it did.
By this time, flames were coming out all along the underside of the café, and every time we managed to put a bit out, it started up again. The caff was full of smoke, but two of us had to go and find the electric cut-offs (which were not far from the door) and also, getting an extinguisher under the building required lying out on the floor alongside of it, in the smoke.
The fire boys (and girl-shout out, sister) came fairly quickly (like, all of them-two fire engines and about 12 people, all in their mahoosive heavy fire gear and sweating their nuts off) and sorted things out properly.
They had to rip up a massive hole in the floor of the caff to sort out the fire underneath, but ultimately declared it safe, with the building remaining intact aside from aforementioned giant hole, a few planks, and lots of charring on the outside.
And all of the fucking smoke.
Because we’d had to cut the electric, we then decided that the obvious next step was to get all of the ice cream out of the freezer and share them out with the fire fighters, who were more than happy to take them off our hands.
By this time, I felt like wet shit-it was like 28 degrees yesterday and I’d suddenly had to do more aerobic exercise than I’d done in about ten years, and also, I evidently ate a lot more smoke than I thought I had, because I could not stop coughing, and it was fucking painful.
The fire dudes must have asked me about ten times if I wanted oxygen or an ambulance and I was flatly being all “no, I’m fine” but it was getting to the stage when actually I realised I was starting to be a pain by saying no when they were concerned, so I took it, and felt a lot better, albeit looking like a twat.
Within seconds of having the mask on, my mate had uploaded this to my Facebook page:
So here is what I have learned about the mad shit that happens when something is on fire:
- Fire is FAST. I mean, SO FAST. Given that sometimes in the winter it takes me half the night to light my stove using wood, kindling, firelighters and a stove specifically designed for the purpose, I am honestly shocked at how fast a random fire can take hold when burning shit that was never intended to be set fire.
- People lose their shit when there is a fire-me included-and I think this is natural. But it’s fucking dangerous too, when people’s minds make connections like fire=water, without actually looking at what is happening. If everyone got just a half hour of fire training on types of extinguishers and how to proceed, things would be better.
- You lose the ability to actually see the fire extinguishers that you see every day when you actually need them, like some kind of snow blindness.
- People are surprisingly reluctant to leave a clearly burning building when their dinner is on the table.
- CO fire extinguishers might put the flames out, but as I am now aware, they have no after-fire security-shit will just light right back up again like those stupid birthday candles.
- The yard dog can and will opportunistically piss in the helmet of one of the firemen with impunity, despite the fact that they are here to help.
- Watching firemen at work is like watching interpretive art. They move like one unit, it’s fucking awesome and so impressive.
- You are not immune to smoke. Take the fucking oxygen when offered it-the firemen will not think that you are a wuss, and if you refuse it, they will waste their time and energy supervising you to see if you will keel over in the interim. Don’t make their lives harder.
- Telling the young, pretty fireman that he is young and pretty will result in all of his mates ripping the piss out of him.
- A thank you and an ice cream goes a long way.