Fanning the Flames

This is a true story: it happened to me in 1997, not too long after I moved to Colorado. That first year, I lived in an apartment while I figured out where I really wanted to live. It was expensive, but pretty decent. There was a nice swimming pool, which I could see from my window. It was a nice day, and I was in it.

I was standing there talking to a couple of new residents. The kind that looked good in bikinis. As we were chatting, I hear a weird noise -- "FOOMP!" -- from the condos next door. I looked over to see a big flame on the second storey, shooting out of the wall! Then it went away. Huh?

I popped into my place and called 911. That brought three fire trucks and a police car, but by the time they got there there was no flame to be seen. No sign that there was ever a flame. But I flagged them down and marched them over to the side of the building. "Uh huh," they said to my story. I think they were leaning in to smell my breath to see if I had been drinking. They wanted to know where, exactly, I saw flames shooting out of the perfectly normal-looking building. I pointed, and right at that exact moment we all heard a "FOOMP!" and saw a jet of flames come out of the wall!

Needless to say they stopped sniffing my breath.

The cause was actually kind of interesting. A heating contractor had been there earlier in the day, and seems to have managed to connect a gas line to the dryer vent. After a while, a nice load of gas would build up, which then would ignite. (How, I don't know; I don't think dryers tend to have pilot lights.) Once ignited it shot out a real nice flame several feet as the gas in the pipe burned off, and then it would go out and start building up again. I was able to hear the fire department commander ask the dispatcher to call the contractor and ask if he might please get his butt down here right now and fix it.

Meanwhile, no one in the building had a clue that it was happening, and no one else on my side of the yard had bothered to call it in.

(Copyright 2005 Randy Cassingham, all rights reserved.)

Posted July 25, 2005

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