Yesterday started out being a normal day. Leave for work at 6:05, stop by the gas station to fill up, get to work at 6:45, and started slamming roof at 7:00. The home owner came out and talked to us (Zack, Terry, Joe, Chris, and me – remember those names, ’cause they’re important) for a bit before heading to work. By 7:30, were were making good progress with the roof and were very confident that we could have most, if not all, of the roof wrapped that day.
9:15. Zack was on the ground cutting metal for the roof, and the rest of us were on the roof doing our various jobs when a vent turbine went ballistic – without warning or reason it went from a complete standstill to spinning ultra fast to popping completely off the roof and flying to the ground. Definitely not normal. Chris was closest to where the vent had been, so he walked over to see what might have caused the problem – he was greeted by the smell of smoke, and the sound of a fire alarm.
When Chris said “fire alarm”, Zack looked through the front door of the house. Fire. He didn’t waste a second in ordering us to grab the power tools and get off the roof. He then called the fire department.
I grabbed as much as I could and scurried down. By then, he was off the phone and shouting orders. “Get a hammer or pry bar and break in a window or something! We need to get in there and see if we can’t put out the fire!” I ran to the front door and tried the handle – locked. I back up one step, then kicked as hard as I could. Wood splintered, and the door flew open. Zack charged in with the garden hose, with me right behind him.
But then we saw something that nobody wants to see in a house fire – an open gas line with flames shooting out of it. “Gas! Get out. Nobody in there until we can get that shut off.” We retreated, then worked our way around the house, looking for the gas shut-off. It was in the back of the house. As soon as I closed the line, the gas fire pulled back into the wall, and went out.
Back around front, as soon as the gas was off, Terry, Joe, and Chris were storming into the house with the hose. So far only the couch, stairs, and a closet were on fire, but the smoke was so thick that it was hard to breath and see in the house. We took turns at the hose, each person squirting the fire until he couldn’t stand the smoke anymore.
After 10 minutes or so we had all the flames put out, and the fire trucks rolled up. It was time for us to get out off there way and let them do their thing – our part of the job was done.
I ran across this story while reading a wilderness survival book last night – it’s quite interesting, and sobering.
DAY HAD BROKEN cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray, when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little-travelled trail led eastward through the fat spruce timberland. It was a steep bank, and he paused for breath at the top, excusing the act to himself by looking at his watch. It was nine o’clock. There was no sun nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was due to the absence of sun. This fact did not worry the man. He was used to the lack of sun. It had been days since he had seen the sun, and he knew that a few more days must pass before that cheerful orb, due south, would just peep above the sky-line and dip immediately from view.
“The Yukon lay a mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice.”
The man flung a look back along the way he had come. The Yukon lay a mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice. On top of this ice were as many feet of snow. It was all pure white, rolling in gentle undulations where the ice-jams of the freeze-up had formed. North and south, as far as his eye could see, it was unbroken white, save for a dark hair-line that curved and twisted from around the spruce-covered island to the south, and that curved and twisted away into the north, where it disappeared behind another spruce-covered island. This dark hair-line was the trail—the main trail—that led south five hundred miles to the Chilcoot Pass, Dyea, and salt water; and that led north seventy miles to Dawson, and still on to the north a thousand miles to Nulato, and finally to St. Michael on Bering Sea, a thousand miles and half a thousand more.
But all this—the mysterious, far-reaching hair-line trail, the absence of sun from the sky, the tremendous cold, and the strangeness and weirdness of it all—made no impression on the man. It was not because he was long used to it. He was a newcomer in the land, a chechaquo, and this was his first winter. The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances. Fifty degrees below zero meant eighty-odd degrees of frost. Such fact impressed him as being cold and uncomfortable, and that was all. It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man’s frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man’s place in the universe. Fifty degrees below zero stood for a bite of frost that hurt and that must be guarded against by the use of mittens, ear-flaps, warm moccasins, and thick socks. Fifty degrees below zero was to him just precisely fifty degrees below zero. That there should be anything more to it than that was a thought that never entered his head.