Monday, March 05, 2007

Flames shooting nine feet high

Yup, our faithful Brutus is no more. Our 1997 Mazda/Ford pickup went down in classic, conflagrationary style last night.

We were down at the Eagle last night and, since it was, oh, 30 below or something, we had the car warming up for a bit. Hans went out to turn it off when we decided we would stay a bit longer, to discover the hood steaming away in clear signs of overheating. So he turned it off and came back in. We hung out for about fifteen minutes, and then went back out again to go home and watch a movie we'd rented from Gold Hill (Zoom: Academy for Superheroes, starring Tim Allen). Car seemed fine, temperature gauge was midrange. So we go driving down the road, and we're about halfway home when steam starts rising again. Halfway, of course, is partway down Alpha Way. But the gauge still doesn't seem too hot. We get to the corner, about 150-200 feet from our house, and the gauge suddenly shoots up to HOT. We figure, what the hell, we're almost there.

So we go the rest of the way, turn off the car, and go into the house. After about five minutes, Hans goes back out to plug it in. He comes back in. Another five minutes, and he's putzing around in the entryway, and notices light coming from outside.

HUGE flames are shooting up into the air from where a vague car-shaped form is. Hans whoops, runs outside with the fire extinguisher, shouts at me to call the fire department (takes me three tries, but I finally manage to correctly type in 911). He's pitching buckets of snow on the hood as I'm frantically trying to find another bucket, but by the time I do, he's given up. We can hear the sirens going. Bob LaChaussee, noble neighbor that he is, comes over with his 20-lb fire extinguisher, but we frantically shout at him to get the hell out of there because it's going to blow up (at least half a tank of gas in the thing). He scoots. Poisonous clouds of smoky melted car are billowing all over the place.

The EVFD comes to the rescue inside of two minutes. We're cowering behind the other side of the house by this time, watching the spectacular flames shooting up into the branches, melting plastic and whatall dripping down the front of the truck, flaming tires, hearing the occasional BOOM! as something explodes. I called Mom right after I called 911, sort of hysterically saying "Hi, our car's on fire, do you have one we can borrow, don't worry, the fire department's on its way, ha ha....". Then I called the bar to warn people away from that end of the village, and Judy and Bob, and Dan and Jennifer (no answer--turns out they were attempting to leave for the airport at just about that time--had to wait until the fire trucks left).

The only things that survived the fire were the license plates (both fore and aft, amazingly), the rear tires (at least, they look okay on cursory inspection), and the slightly smudgy tailgate, complete with bumper sticker collection. The gas tank, fortunately, never exploded, but the windows all shattered (as did the headlights), the interior and cab and pickup bed are ash, the battery went kaboom...I heard at least three explosions. The engine, of course, is, um, toast.

I didn't sleep too well last night.

Sarah Wolfe, Mark Simpson, Ryan Williams, Torie (the new station manager), John Debbaut, and I think Cameron and another guy whose name I can't remember were all there. They hosed the car down good, and some brave soul pried opend the fused door so they could drench the inside and make sure it was out. There are rivers of ice all over the driveway. They had face masks and oxygen tanks, which is a good thing. Hans got a whiff of smoke and was coughing last night. His throat is still sore, but he's stopped coughing.

I am SO grateful that my neighbors volunteer as firefighters. They may have prevented both a forest fire and a house fire by getting there so quickly...

This morning, down by the Eagle, we could see what we couldn't last night: radiator fluid on the snow. It looks like we sprung a serious leak, as it was just pouring out, even as we backed down after the engine had cooled. I'm going outside now to clean it up in case any dogs decide to taste it.


Jeffrey A. Rogers said...

I have a friend, Peter Frantz, who has a beat up, 1990 Toyota 4Runner with 248,000 miles for $1,800ish. He says it runs really good but would need work on the tail gate to get it going again (that I might be able to help with). Call me at work (451-2791) or you can call Pete (451-2703). He says we would be willing to work with you if you don’t have all the cash all right now or if you would like to take a look.
Sorry for your loss,

CabinDweller said...

Okay, I realize it is not your custom to post pictures on the blog, but this really cries out for one.

Glad you "only" lost your car - imagine if it had been parked in a garage attached to your house!

Deirdre Helfferich said...

No camera, so no photo, at least not yet. We'll be borrowing one, so soon the results of our driveway firestorm will be on line for all and sundry to witness.