After The Conflagration...
I feel sad this morning watching them board up our house now the fire investigators have left. It looks like a portrait with all the features blanked out. It's lost its personality and most of the interior. The garden is littered with debris, bits of timber and waterlogged furniture. I'll have one last look around before I leave...
I'm standing in the hallway now, facing the charred remains of the staircase. The smell is overwhelming; it must have been quite an inferno last night. I imagine I'm hearing that old song: ‘Three Steps to Heaven,’ I think it's called. Well, our staircase isn't going anywhere - thanks to Harold. If he's feeling witty when he gets out of hospital he'll go round to tell the neighbours what happened and I suppose he could say our staircase is a mere flight of fancy because it doesn't exist anymore, not since the chip pan fire.
It's like this you see, Harold, my husband, came back from the working men's club a bit more inebriated than usual for a Friday night, due to it being his birthday. He had a sudden pang of hunger and decided to cook himself a few chips.
Well, there's me upstairs in bed, oblivious to the flames licking up the stairwell - too soon after my pills to be fully asleep yet, but I can't recall much about it even so. It must be the trauma of it all. Funny how your mind sort of blocks the nasty things out - whether you remember the details or not. It's all a bit hazy now. I can sort of recall the fireman on his ladder desperately trying to smash through the window to rescue me and then there was this almighty roaring sound like a train racing out of control. And that was it really but at the time I thought I was just dreaming.
We had triple glazing installed not so long ago because of the traffic noise and that didn't do me any favours last night as it took the fireman so long to break through.
And all the time there was Harold, downstairs on the sofa in the sitting room with the whole house going up around him like a torch. Daft old codger; trust him to doze off waiting for the chips to cook. He was still fast asleep when the brigade arrived. They managed to drag him to safety just before there was one of those nasty flash-over things. A sudden rush of oxygen fed the fire and whoosh! The lot went up. Well, that’s one thing Harold can't blame me for at least. I was always telling him it was about time we bought one of those new-fangled thermostatic fryers from Argos.
But luck wasn't on my side last night, it seems. Can you believe it? The batteries in the smoke alarms had all gone missing too. I reckon it was when the grandkids came round and Harold took the batteries out to put in one of their toys... it was a fire engine come to think of it... now that's a bit ironic isn't it given the circumstances?
Well, it's not just a new staircase Harold will have to get now... it's a whole new kitchen too - it did need replacing though. There's not much left of the rest of the downstairs either. Smoke damage. It doesn't half make a mess of a place and what the fire doesn't ruin the water does.
They made a massive hole in the roof the brigade did - to get the hose pipe in. Not exactly front page stuff but it'll make the local news today.
Harold will probably enjoy himself - going off to B&Q to buy all the new materials to get the house back in order. It'll do him good to be kept busy for a while. He's always happier when he's got some project or other to put his mind to. But all those years hammering away at DIY in the garden shed won't have prepared him for a job this big; he'll have to call in the professionals this time whether he likes it or not. He's friendly with the carpenter down the road; he'll easily install a brand new staircase for him. The old one with the boxed-in banisters wasn't what you would call modern. Harold knows a reputable decorator too. Come Christmas and the house will be looking like a little palace, straight out of ‘Changing Rooms.’
Harold will be okay again after a few days in hospital. Smoke inhalation and a bit of shock that's all. Nothing they won't be able to put right.
He'll be fine and so will the house. It was sad about that nice young fireman who tried to rescue me though. He had a wife and kids and was just starting out on life; all cruelly snatched away from him just because of Harold and his wretched chips. The chip shop was still open, for God's sake. Why couldn't he have gone there?
I remember the look in the fireman's eyes just as he broke through the window. A look of triumph and then one of horror. So near and yet so far. All very traumatic for him too.
Wait a minute. Something's happening to the staircase; it's changing into a different one right before my very eyes...
There's a whole new staircase now and it's already grander than any flight of fancy I can think of. It’s like something out of those lavish Hollywood movies they had back in the forties. Gone are the blackened embers, now everything is white... pure white. The staircase is lovely now, all sparkling and encrusted with diamonds and glittery things I've never seen anywhere before. It seems to extend as far as the eye can see. My legs feel leaden at the prospect of climbing it but I know I'll have to.
‘Don't you have a stair-lift or an elevator or something?’ I inquire of no-one in particular, finding the mere thought of all those steps a trifle daunting - quite a few more than the three in the song I was reminded of earlier. Perhaps someone will come to assist me, what with my arthritis and all.
‘Yes, we did consider installing a lift,’ replies a knowledgeable voice, ‘but it wouldn't look half as impressive. Don’t you agree? Step on the first stair and you'll be pleasantly surprised.’
I feel a welcome presence behind me. He steps forward to hold my hand and as I turn to face him, I recognise him instantly - it's the young fireman who tried to save me last night.
‘Come on, love. We can climb up together.’
As we step onto it, the whole staircase begins to move just like the escalator in Marks and Sparks. It's an electrifying experience. We continue to watch, transfixed as the glittering, moving staircase stretches before us into the distance, taking us all the way up to the pearly gates.
Three Steps To Heaven
A Moral In The Tale
Although the above story is pure fiction, the plot is based on a common scenario. Fires in the home can often be life threatening so every second is vital to escape heat, smoke and fumes. The videos below will alert you to the dangers of chip pan fires and other hazards. Often people don't know the correct safety procedures. Get the fire service to do a Home Safety Test which is free. Above all, have at least one fully functioning smoke alarm on every level of your home and remember to check the batteries regularly.
The Dangers Of Chip Pans As Demostrated By The Fire Service
Fire Prevention In The Home
© 2014 Stella Kaye