Fire & Ice
There is not much better, on a cool crisp evening as the sun has finished it's set, than to stand around a yellow orange campfire enjoying the warmth and in the back of your mind knowing that s'mores are on the evening's agenda. After a few such campfire evenings over the years I realized I was a pyromaniac. I love to look at fire. I love to start a fire. Stoke a fire and see embers sparkle up into the night sky. I'm also pyrophobic - I hate fire. I hate the destruction and how it can totally destroy a home or a forest. That feeling won out in October 2020 (a pretty awful year to begin with) when an ice storm blanketed the metro area. The front yard was littered with limbs, branches, leaves, and ice. In the back yard, a branch the size of a medium tree turned upside down and dove headfirst towards the icy ground, stopped only by the electrical wire feeding the house. It pushed the wire down so hard that it pulled the insulator away from the top of the pole, bent the conduit pipe coming out of the roof, snapped the steel support cable, and completely severed the ground cable. The two live wires were still attached, but suspended in limbo - the lack of the ground wire didn't allow them to complete their circuits in the house: appliances, outlets, and lights.
There were a couple of exceptions, however - the refrigerator was working although struggling and the heater in the home office building was working. Pretty strange. How come a couple of electrical appliances were getting juice but the rest were dead. The best explanation the electrician presented was that those appliances had found another route to ground themselves, thereby completing the circuit.
That powerful surge of juice found a path along the buried cable line, ran in a flash towards the house, and surfaced at the cable junction box. A loud pop. A flash of light and white smoke. I was sitting just inside and was startled by the tree crack, the whoosh of the branch in flight, the pop, the flash, and the smoke. I stepped outside to see - whoa, there were flames on the back wall. The pyromaniac panicked. Do I call 911 or do I put the fire out. I remembered advice to call 911. But there was a fire right there. The voice in my brain firmly stated, “You big lug, put the fire out!” I knew where the extinguisher was. I got it, pulled the pin out, and aimed the white powdery spray at the flames. Some plastic from the cable was dripping down into the bed of reeds and flaming there, also. I doused those areas too.
Still pacing anxiously, I made phone calls:
1. 911 - the operator said the fire department was too busy and would likely not come since I had put the fire out. Okay, That makes sense.
2. Cable company - they put me on the schedule, but also warned me it would be at least a week since cable is out for thousands of customers.
3. Electricians who had worked on the house before - they would stop by in the next day or two to assess the damage.
I sat down and was able to calmify a bit. I still had fears of fire in the wiring in walls and attic. That night I kept vigil. There were more branch cracks all nite. From the airbed on the floor of the office, I watched the house in fear of another fire. Off and on sleep. Loss of more limbs on the large old trees.
I lost some trust that my house would not catch fire.
• Tuesday 27: sleet, iced trees; 2:00p: pop, flash, smoke, fire; sleep in cold: Brooklyn in coat, me in sweats.
• Wensday 28: set food outside in plastic bin, cleared driveway of branches to get the car out; searched motels for the next few nights (closest one was 50 miles up the interstate in Perry.) lunch with neighbor who had power, Jeopardy, dinner; set up bed in office.
• Thursday 29: CFA: bkfst, charge, buy ice chest; electrician assess; read, office sleep.
• Friday 30: CFA: bkfst; Electrician 12:30-2:00, del taco lunch,, power on; move back into house; clean house & office, dinner, read.
- Power out: 3 days Tuesday 2p 27 - Friday 2p 30
- Refrigerator out: 8 days: Tues Oct 27 - Wens Nov 4
- Internet/TV out: 9 days Tues Oct 27 - Thurs Nov 5
- Trees trimmed and stacked: Sat Oct 31 - Tues Nov 3
• Pyrophobia - house fire, angst - fire in walls, wiring
• Long-term damage from limbs, accessing the car
• Disruption of routine, comfort, familiar environment
• Angst - virus, unstable government with madman in charge, unsettled election and response, Ginsberg death, daylight savings switch
© James Robert Watson, PhD, 2020