Saturday afternoon, I was moving cars around. Long story short, I backed my truck up to my longish driveway and left it near the street. Then I moved my 1973 911 and since it has no choke, and a sketchy battery that needed lots of help to turn the engine over, I left it running (crappily, as you’d expect a flat 6 carbed car that has no choke to run in 22-degree weather), while I got another car and left IT right behind the 911. All to get my girlfriend’s POS minivan that I had just done the brakes on out of the garage.
As I got out of the last car in line, and was walking back to the garage, I hear a weird ‘boom” from the spitting and fast idled 911. Odd, and I turned around. Hmmm, LOTS of smoke, even more than I’d ever seen. I look closer, and see, suddenly, orange light below, and quickly through the engine vent. FIRE! It is at this exact moment that I might have realized the importance of a fire extinguisher and a fire door for the apartment! I feel it’s time to call in expert fire door fitters to have a fire door fitted, and if we do, get it checked for any damages! Let me now explain to you the events that followed after my realization that there was a fire brewing!
I dash to the door and kill the ignition, then spring back and move the car right behind it back away. Then run into the garage to get my not-small fire extinguisher. I unload the contents, and knock the flames down, after opening the engine cover. But the source is in front of the engine, under the car. Difficult place to spray, although I tried, from the back, the sides, the wheel well, and the engine compartment. I DID get the flames down…but not QUITE out.
Eeeek! They start up again. I dash over the icy drive to my First floor apt but the former tenants had taken the extinguisher I supplied them with when they moved! Arrrg! Plan C. Sprint to the basement to get my “furnace fire extinguisher” mounted on the basement elect panel and back up to the driveway…where the flames are now illuminating the side of the house 5 feet away, and empty the entire contents of THAT one! Again, close, but not quite, there’s still an orange glow under the car! Ahhhhh!
PLAN D!!! Up to my second floor to get THAT extinguisher. Same result. I had 911 dialed on the iPhone on the second extinguisher but now decide to press “send”, as I move my truck out of the drive.
Now I’m starting to freak. Really, I’ve shot my three bullets. The flames are getting big. I KNOW the neighbors are USELESS…no way, no how is THAT a good expenditure of time. It’s been below freezing for a month, so the hose is out of the question.
Then I decide that my racing mantra, “If things go wrong, minimize minimize minimize” should be followed. I really don’t think my car wash bucket filled with water idea will get the fire out, but who cares? Just containing it for 5 minutes until the firemen arrive would be a win at this point.
So I run down the cellar stairs and it hits me. I JUST changed valves on my heating system, and had a 5-gallon bucket full of water sitting right next to the furnace. I grab it and dash up the stairs, where the flames are above the roof of the car. I decide a half bucket toss from above is a start followed by the rest hurled from as low an angle as I can get is my best hope.
SUCCESS! Lots of steam, smoke and boiling sounds, but no orange can be seen anywhere! A minute or two later I’ve refilled it, but there’s no sign of flames so I redial 911. But they say the guys will respond no matter what. I hear sirens a minute later. They arrive two minutes after that.
Cool guys, they have a water bottle and want to rinse the engine so the corrosive stuff is off the carbs. They are sure to cover the open throats. One of them was a total car guy and remembered my car from the summer when they were in the hood doing smoke alarm walk bys.
So, all in all, it was a win. Damage was minor. I didn’t burn my house. I didn’t damage the other cars parked two feet away. I didn’t blow the thing up and kill myself or damage anything of the neighbors (the fence is 5 feet on the other side). I didn’t slip on the ice or snow or twist an ankle running down stairs with a 5 gallon bucket of water. I still have a car that looks like a 911.
Thinking about all the potential damage that could have occurred really gets you thinking about improving the state of things as they are now in an attempt to make them look better or just conduct general repairs. It’s also important to make sure there aren’t any pests that can cause damage in the house too, particularly in dark spaces like the basement. Rats and mice pose a significant problem here and could even cause a fire themselves through chewing through electrical wires, as they do, and causing havoc. Getting pest control services in (like these – https://www.pestcontrolexperts.com/) to deal with the situation tends to be the solution most homeowners go with.
It was in the shop (before pulling it out to do the GFs minivan brakes) for an engine drop and minor restoration, to replace things that are wear items. I am 90% certain that a fuel line split, (it was on the list to replace) and that was the source of the fire. Ironically, it wasn’t going to be started again this winter, but I thought it would be nice to save the GF some money by doing her brakes.
SO….make SURE your garage has at least ONE, real deal fire extinguisher. And check it regularly. Mine was checked for charge this fall, and was fine. Tomorrow I will be getting two to replace the one for my shop, and new larger ones for every floor of the house. And I’m leaving a 5 gallon bucket of water where I can get to it easily, LOL.
I’m very thankful I didn’t panic. But I’m going to get the same type of application extinguisher for all locations so that I don’t need to figure out different pins and seals that need pulling. Honestly, they aren’t hard to use, but man, when you’re running down icy steps a billion miles an hour and your oldest and favorite car is burning to the ground, you do NOT want to have to ‘figure this damn thing out”.