Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is editor and publisher of the Stanstead Journal.
Posted 06.26.02
Stanstead, Quebec


Don't assume the gods won't get you anyway

It's not too often that you get to feel smug and humbled at the same time.

Add a smattering of panic in the mix when your neighbor calls you up at work and says, "Deb would like you to come home now. There was a small fire but everything's okay!"

This call came Monday afternoon just after I had got off the phone with an insurance adjuster to talk about our van being blindsided by a color-blind driver at an intersection in Montreal on the weekend -- but that's another crisis.

I rushed home from the office after turning off all the computers and printers (suddenly I was hyper-conscious about overheated equipment) to find my family and the neighbors standing around the front yard. No fire trucks, though there were a couple of firefighters, Guy Roy and Chris Boucher. There was even an ex-fire chief, Larry Reynolds, whose daughter Keri lives across the street.

And between our two houses was the power line, hanging so low that if you strung up a net you could happily call the neighbors round for a game of street volleyball.

Here's what happened:

A wayward semi-truck, attempting to make a delivery elsewhere in town, went up our Pierce Street, where no semi-truck ought to be. Truck high, wire low.

Truck going too fast yanks line, breaks the ground wire. The trucker knows what he has done but continues on his way. The gods smile, however, and he gets hung up turning the sharp corners of our neighborhood and neighbor Clint chases him down. But that too is another story in bad manners (the trucker's, not Clint's).

Back to my house: The yanked wires cut the power to my house. Inside, Deb has our four kids plus two others of the baby-sat variety. Not only does the power go out but there are several "pop! pops!" indicating that something bad is happening in the circuitry.

And then there is the smell of smoke.

Quick-thinking Deb sends the kids next door to tell Bonnie to call the fire department. Then she goes upstairs to discover black smoke blooming in Emily's room. A closer look reveals flames shooting up from the socket, scorching the plaster wall.

Here's where the smug part comes in:

Just over a month ago, we finally got around to purchasing a cheap First Alert kitchen fire extinguisher, 25 bucks or so at Zellers. I figured it would be a dust gatherer for the next five years. Who knew?

Deb ran downstairs, grabbed the canister, and blasted that pesky fire like it was a hornet's nest in a shower stall. The fire was out.

I was feeling smug because we had had the foresight (and good fortune) to buy a fire extinguisher just weeks earlier. Not every home has one, I thought. Now I see why they should.

Now for the humble bit:

If Deb hadn't been home at the time or if it had been a beautiful day and she had been in the back yard, our old house could have gone up like a box of matches. Like our little accident in Montreal (minor damage, no one hurt, thanks for asking), the fire could have been far worse.

Hydro came and hooked up our lines. The police came and had a chat with the driver (yup, the wire was too low, the officer said with a shrug). And Richard Lacroix came as dark settled to repair the damage (virtually nil, save for a ruined outlet, two blown clock radios, a dead baby monitor, and a microwave with a questionable future). He made sure it was safe for us to reboot the power.

And so, as we now nervously turn on and off light switches, hoping that there will be no further "pops" to indicate further electrical damage, the moral of the story is, check your smoke dectectors, buy an extinguisher.

And even if you do, don't assume the gods won't get you anyway.