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Our House Almost Caught on Fire

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Today I’m going to tell you all about how our house almost caught on fire during renovations…

This event happened one month after we bought the house…. it’s just taken me this long to post about it!

Our heating system is “hydronic,” meaning that water is heated, run through pipes, and then radiant heat from baseboard heaters warms the house. While we were remodeling, we pulled all the drop ceiling panels out and saw allll of those pipes. We left the panels out so we could easily work on the pipes and electric.

man on ladder

The 2nd floor bathroom area is above the kitchen. So the bathroom had heaters that needed to be moved, which meant they needed to be cut off and spliced together in the kitchen ceiling. Are you following me? We had to gut the kitchen, which is why you don’t see cabinets or a fridge on this wall yet.

We had our HVAC man come out to drain the hydronic system, cut, and join those pipes together. Now, you can use a handy dandy gadget called a shark bite to do this, but he had forgotten to bring those. So he decided to do it the old fashioned way, with a torch and soldering. He is well experienced in the old-fashioned way, since he has been doing this a long time. Fred (not his real name) and my husband began to drain the system, and I left to go buy wood at Home Depot for our other projects.

After an hour or so I returned. They had just turned the hydronic system back on, and water was spurting all over the kitchen because the soldering method hadn’t sealed the copper pipes in one of the 2 places that they spliced. So they turned the water back off and Fred began working in the kitchen ceiling again while my husband helped me carry the wood to the second floor.

During his 2nd or 3rd trip to the 2nd floor, my husband said, “There’s smoke up here.” I hollered down to the basement where Fred was that there’s smoke! Fred flew up the basement stairs asking where, which of the 2 places was the smoke? David on the 2nd floor told him which one, Fred moved the ladder and began knocking insulation and wood and plaster out of the top of the kitchen ceiling near the new drywall I had just painted. Burning coals came down.

I wasn’t sure why anything would be smoking, or burning, and was a little slow to grab my camera. But I did get the tail end of the coals coming out of my kitchen ceiling.

Here’s what had happened: 45 minutes prior to the smoke on the 2nd floor, the blowtorch for soldering had been used by Fred close to the kitchen wall where it meets the ceiling. Since the insulation was fire resistant, nothing caught on fire, and nothing smoked….. until about 45 minutes later!

scorched insulation

We realized several things that God worked together for our good so that the house didn’t burn down! Firstly, if the 2nd pipe hadn’t leaked water all over, we would have thought all was well, packed up and left. In the morning our house would have been allll burned up!

Secondly, if I had taken soup to a sick person as I had planned, instead of going to Home Depot for wood, David would not have been making trips to the 2nd floor where he smelled the smoke right after it started burning. We could have had a much larger fire and more damage to deal with.

Do you know why I didn’t take that soup? I had it in my car and was about to leave when I got a message that she was on her way to the Emergency Room instead.

Back to the story… As it was, some of the smoky insulation fell down in the wall. There was a diagonal beam in the wall, making it hard to see down in there to see if any of it was stuck. I was reasonably concerned that we could accidentally leave some smoldering insulation in the wall and still end up with a fire! So we three spent a good 30 minutes or an hour poking at the bottom of the wall and pulling out all the insulation.

While I had been at Home Depot, my husband could have called and told me to pick up some Shark bites. I almost went back on my own to get some before they closed, but if I had done that, I wouldn’t have been there to see all of the excitement.

It was 10:30 p.m. at this point. I went home, and David stayed with the HVAC man to get that 2nd pipe soldered up tightly. At 11 p.m. the HVAC man’s wife called me to see if he was okay since he wasn’t home yet and it was the middle of winter (end of January). So I told her about all the excitement.

After David finally got home around midnight, he told me that Fred had gotten in a hurry, realizing how late it was, and had tried to go up the wrong side of the ladder with his hot torch. [David noticed this, and kept silent; so if he is around and you go up the wrong side of a ladder, don’t expect him to warn you…. he will just think you are the professional and you know what you are doing….] So Fred fell off the ladder but thankfully the dishwasher in its box in the middle of the kitchen floor broke his fall, and he didn’t break any bones or anything.

I was laughing so hard tears came to my eyes.

The next day the handyman says to me: “You realize your ladder is broken, don’t you?” Well, it had broken on the wrong side…. just a bit… I’m glad nobody got hurt. I threw that ladder out to be sure no one else would use it.

Now every so often I pray that our house doesn’t burn down.

You can see all of my released videos about Century Farms here.

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