Let me just say up front, I am not a pyromaniac, although I do like candles
and fire pits. I was doing what I traditionally do on Memorial Day weekend, getting the yard ready for the summer. One of the major parts is always doing some work on my deck, usually involving cleaning and staining. That particular Memorial Day was hot and I finished up the staining about two o clock in the afternoon. Unfortunately, while reaching to put the can of stain back on the shelf in the garage, it slipped and the remainder of the stain spilled all over the garage floor.
Unlike many people, I actually use my garage to park my truck in. My first thought was that oil based paint and a spark from a vehicle could possibly ignite, so I spent the next twenty minutes making sure I got all the paint off the floor. I used a whole roll of paper towels and promptly threw them into a wastebasket in the corner of the garage. A wastebasket with a closed lid. Having never taken the time to read the paint can, I missed the part about not putting paint covered rags in a closed container.
I spent the rest of the day going in and out of the garage doing laundry and finishing up my yard work. Later in the afternoon, I pulled my truck back into the garage. I had a moment of hesitation, but I thought, “It should be fine. I know I wiped up all the paint.”
After a long day of working outside, I showered, had a little dinner, a glass of wine and put on my pajamas, ready to go to bed. Just as I was getting ready to settle in for the night, I heard some noise coming from the garage, which although attached to the house, (see the photo above) doesn’t have a direct entry into the house.
My first thought was, “Some douche bag has broken into my garage!” I rushed out the front door, in my little baby doll PJs, ready to kick someone’s ass.
Instead, I was met with huge flames shooting through the garage door.
The first thought that popped into my head was, “Hmmm. Looks like I won’t be going to work tomorrow.”
I ran to the phone to call 911. They were already aware since some of the neighbors had already called. By now, several of them were outside, shouting at me to get out of the house.
I had always seen people on TV during the wildfires, fighting to save their houses with hoses, trying to get their belongings out, and I always thought, “That would be me.”
I realize now, that will never be me. Fires are very hot. Sounds like a “DUH” but you really don’t realize how hot until you are standing in front of them. I wasn’t going to be trying to get anything out of the
garage, even though all my band equipment and of course, my just recently paid off truck were in there.
Instead, I stood in front of the house, my two cats inside and waited helplessly with my neighbors, for what seemed like hours, for the fire department to come.
They actually arrived fairly quickly. One of my neighbors offered to let me use their phone to call someone. I went in and couldn’t remember a single number, including my boyfriend of over ten years at the time.
A close friend showed up, called by my house alarm company. Standing in my neighbor’s kitchen, still trying to remember anyone’s phone number, I heard her voice saying to one of the firemen, “I just want to know if the person who lives there is alright!” I ran out the front door, crying out her name like a crazy person, never so glad in my life to see her.
My boyfriend also arrived, also called by the alarm company. By that point, they had the fire under control and asked if I needed something out.
“My cats, where are my cats?”
The fireman brought out Elsa first. He was holding her facing me and the first thing she did, was look at me and let out a loud “MEOW,” as if to say, “Bitch, you left me in there?”
The cat carriers, of course, were also in the garage. I had been terrified that if I took the cats out myself, with no carriers, they were going to take off, frightened by all the mayhem and I wouldn’t find them. So I had bet on the firemen doing their job and they did it.
They told me they could not catch Kiara. They had seen her running through the house, but every time they got near her, she took off. Did I want to come in and see if she would come out for me?
We found her in the bedroom, under the bed. I reached under and managed to pull her out, holding her tightly to my chest. She promptly peed all over a jacket I was wearing that one of my neighbors had given me to put over my pajamas.
With the two cats safely in my neighbors’ bathtub, with the door closed, I asked what had caused the fire, sure I had somehow left some paint on the floor that had been ignited by the truck.
“Oh no,” the fireman said, “You did a great job of cleaning up the paint. It was the paper towels that you wiped it up with.”
I burst into tears. Yes, any oil based paint on rags or towels in a closed container, will combust. What made it even worse, was the waste basket was right over where I kept the extra paint, so as soon as the flames started, it hit the paint cans and went crazy.
All rags and towels should be put in water, left out in the open and not put in a garage of you can help it. This last Memorial Day weekend when I did even spray painting, anything with paint on it, went in a bucket with water in it, out in the driveway, not near a building.
It is funny when I tell people this story. They either finish it for me, saying, “It was the wastebasket” or they look at me in total disbelief and go, “HOURS later? After you had been in the house for hours? I
thought that was urban legend.”
I think it depends if you ever read the paint can.
Next up, putting it all back together………