by John Stratton
From sunsets, we learn to see. From fire, we learn to…smell.
It brings to mind all of the third-grade Fire Prevention Weeks we have all had, and all the warnings, and all the posters, and all the heroic firefighters in the classroom.
And, you know, it actually works. If you smell a fire, it’s probably there.
In the case of The Resident’s office on October 5, when people have worked hard and are about to leave, finally, with the newest issue to bed and an evening of civic duty ahead, there was that doubt, that faint “burny” smell that would not go away all afternoon, the whiff that was almost not there, but yet a bit stronger as 6 o’clock approached and then went by, and the slight concern increasing. Close the door and go home? Or look around the office again? Or call the Wequetequock Fire Department and bother the volunteers?
Those lines from old songs, “Fire Down Below,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “Moths to the Flame,” all come to mind, irrationally, when you are looking for a blaze that is not there…just yet.
So when the firefighters arrive, almost instantly, you’re a bit embarrassed. But there’s that smell, like heated electrical wires, or plugs, a bit chemical, a bit like matches, the old ones that strike anywhere.
The firefighters, not having been in the office all day and well-tuned to their own ability to sense strange smells, could tell in an instant.
“Everybody out! Now!”
Few things are as innocuous as a computer, its blank screen, its neat keyboard on an empty desk. But–if you’ve seen “2001” or any number of Revenge of the Machine films–they are creatures of wit and illusion and deception.
So it was with this one, whose power supply was not supplying power, but storing it, melting connections, heating circuit boards before some flash point sure to come.
No sign of flame. But was the computer burning because of an interior fault…or was the electric power supply from the whole building at fault? Was there a short circuit somewhere else? Firefighters have learned, the hard way, that it is important to be thorough, searching through attic and overheads just to be sure.
Soon, all was well, computers and power disconnected, everyone home happy and safe. Take-home message: Sometimes it’s not just smoke.
Nice job, Wequetequock Volunteers. And thanks.