A couple of weeks ago, My Captain’s shift was called out for a fire that had broken out on the back deck of someone’s townhouse.
When the firefighters got to the scene, the fire was already extending into the house! Luckily, they were able to knock it down pretty quickly, and thankfully, no one was hurt.
The same can’t be said for the deck!
My Captain’s shift threw water on the fire from the bottom, then they took the deck stairs and hit it from the top and when they could better get into it, they began to tear apart the burning elements. In other words, they had to take the deck apart! They call this a “overhaul,” the purpose of which is to find where the fire might still be burning or smoldering and completely extinguish it.
One thing a firefighter hates is getting RE-called to a fire they already went to put out. It looks bad (ie, is embarrassing as hell) for the crew, it causes more damage, and worst of all, it leads to unlimited poking from other firehouses.
Before the crew could put much more of their weight on the deck, they had to shore up and stabilize it, It had already been weakened by age and generally poor construction, and was made worse by the fire! Good thing the firehouse that happens to serve that townhouse houses a special ops/collapse rescue team!
My Captain would take no chances with hurting any of his men. The fire had burned through structural members that served as connection points to the townhouse, and there were bent, or seriously compromised joist hangers…which are important if something is going to bear any weight! So Gravy (remember him? From ~ Something is Burning ~) tightened up some struts at key load points under the deck to support the weight of the deck and the several firefighters working on it.
Then they needed to figure out what caused the fire, as it isn’t always immediately obvious. This is Andy, he is one of the County Fire Investigators whose job it is to determine the cause of the fire.
My Captain and Andy began interviewing the occupants of the townhouse. At first, the residents said they didn’t know what happened, but that didn’t add up to My Captain, and under further pressing by Andy, they eventually admitted that they had been smoking and threw their butt out onto the deck.
Side note: My Captain is very good at cutting through the crap. In the early 90’s, he was a gun-toting Fire Investigator himself, and he put many an arsonist in the slammer. Our kids have learned that you might as well confess your sins to My Captain in the beginning, because he will grill you until you crack. He smells a guilty conscience a miles away. He doesn’t miss a beat. It’s his dark, brooding eyes that I swear could slice a person in two. I think it’s sexy. Critter and Varmint, (and the odd arsonist), not so much.
Back to the Fire: With the one-two punch of questioning between My Captain and Andy, they now had an admission and knew for certain what caused the fire. Andy agreed it fit with the evidence in his findings.
The occupant had discarded their finished cigarette onto the deck and went back inside, leaving it to smoulder on the wood. The air conditioning unit below was running on high, and so forcing air up through the deck, which fanned the flames. The heat from the blaze got so high it shattered the sliding glass door. It melted the siding. It burned into the house and creeped in between the floor joists.
You want to know what else throwing a seemingly harmless cigarette butt onto a deck can lead to?
This picture is from the basement looking up after the guys had to hack into the floor and ceiling to chase the fire. All of this from one tiny little butt.
The good news is that no one was hurt. The bad news is that this family now needs a new deck, a new kitchen floor, and new basement ceiling, and likely a new A/C unit….for starters.
Oh….and an ash tray.
The moral of the story….if you don’t want to see Gravy, and Andy, and My Captain and the rest of his crew at your doorstep, axes and pike poles in hand, watch your butt!