I've had an exciting evening.
I was in my kitchen when I smelled smoke. I came running through to my study, from where I normally write my blog posts, to find a large 33-gallon plastic garbage can well ablaze, smoke rapidly making that half of the house uninhabitable.
I dialled 911 straight away, and got the fire brigade started, then I fought the fire. Very fortunately for me, I served for several years in the Armed Forces, and was trained in basic firefighting. I have extinguishers in every room, and buckets available to get water. I was able to douse the worst of the flames even before the fire department got here, and they (after ordering me out, coughing and spluttering) were able to put out the rest in short order.
My study's quite badly damaged, and I think my desktop computer is toast - it was running at the time, and its cooling fan sucked all that oily black smoke deep into its innards. When I try to start it now, it sits there and sulks. Methinks silicon chips and fire smoke aren't a good combination! I've lost about 200 books with charred spines, and one bookcase: another two bookcases show smoke damage, as does the rest of the room, of course. I'll need a new carpet in the study, the passage leading to the living-room, and probably in the living-room too. It seems that firemen hauling out ashes and debris aren't too worried about carpets, or about treading the debris into the carpet with their boots! (That's not a complaint, by the way. I'm very glad they did so!)
I'll have to get the insurers in tomorrow to see what they'll cover, but I'm already very grateful that things aren't worse. Another thirty to forty seconds without being noticed, and the fire would probably have reached either the wall or the ceiling - and after that, all bets would have been off. I'm very, very lucky.
- Having a fire extinguisher (even a small one) in every room was a really, REALLY good idea. It saved my bacon. Even so, I found that two small extinguishers weren't enough to kill the fire, necessitating buckets of water to finish the job. I think I'll replace the small extinguishers with big ones!
- Knowing how to fight a fire also helps greatly. I was able to get the worst of it beaten down before the fire brigade got here. They commented that if I hadn't been able to do so, they doubted whether the house could have been saved.
- The fire department suspects the blaze started in a shredder. I kept it plugged in and on standby, the way the manual says to leave it. It appears that something in the motor shorted out, causing overheating, which set fire to the shredded paper in the bin beneath it. This burned through the plastic casing, setting fire to the large trash bin next to it. That was when I smelled the smoke and came running. I've kept the remains of the shredder and bin to show the insurance adjuster, and I rather suspect that my next shredder will be unplugged when not in use!
- My computer was running, even though unattended. That's probably killed it, through smoke being drawn into the casing. Fortunately, I have a laptop as well, which was in another room, and wasn't damaged: but I've learned that it might be good to switch off the computer when I know I won't need it for an hour or two, just in case.
No more posting for tonight. I'll get the insurance assessment done, and start the process of getting quotes for repairs, then we'll see how things go.