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What the heck are you burning now?

Updated on February 5, 2011

Smoke alarms are so important

Living in a basement apartment within a home, for me, has some interesting domestic events that just end up being rather humorous. It seems my landlord’s family likes to play a game with me where they are winning (or it could be argued, losing) at the rate of something like 25 to 3. It is the estimated score of how many times in the last year that the smoke alarm has been set off in the house by them or me. Since I like to use my barbecue all year round, I avoid using the oven quite a lot except when I am in the mood to try baking something (usually the cause of my scores).

Most often the alarm is set off by something on or inside the two stoves in our dwellings, usually followed by a few muffled voices and someone rushing to push the button on the alarm that temporarily stops it from making the presence of smoke very well known. Then the sounds of sliding patio doors, range hood fans, opening windows or doors and some more voices begrudgingly acknowledging that the smoke detector is indeed functioning properly (maybe too well).

But the sensitivity is an important necessity in detecting smoke early. One of the games was a little more serious, where a plastic food container was inside my landlord’s oven and was not detected as the oven was preheated to make a frozen pizza. They came to my door and made sure that I evacuated the apartment and could not return until the fire department said it was alright to do so. There was some smoke damage and the stove had to be replaced because of melted plastic getting into all the nooks and crannies of the oven. No one was injured and the neighbours all met in the driveway to discuss the reason for the fire department showing up.

Everyone was relieved that it didn’t end up with a more serious outcome, like a house a few streets removed from here. Something caught fire in their garage, destroyed the garage and the two vehicles parked in the driveway. A few months later the house is boarded up and there are only signs of what the wrecking crew has done. There is no garage now, no cars in the driveway, and just well stacked piles of burnt grey brick and no signs of anyone living there. It appears the fire happened while the residents were at work and miraculously no damage was done to neighbouring homes, but it remains to be seen if that home will ultimately be rebuilt or just demolished. I’m sure that because it is winter and the insurance company lawyers are trying to negotiate a settlement that it will take some time to resolve this issue.

So when the smoke alarm goes off in my dwelling, whether because of something I messed up or my landlord’s family did, I joke to myself “what the heck are you burning now” and consider myself lucky that it was just a false alarm and now think of that family that is not able to live in their home because of the destruction that a house fire can so easily cause.

If you haven’t changed the batteries in your smoke alarm, then maybe now is a good time to do so. Smoke alarms do save lives, but only if they are working properly.


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