I think a lot about gas these days, and I don’t mean farts or indigestion. The fire at my house occurred because of a gas leak, possibly aided by faulty wiring. To this day I don’t know how the gas leak began. The firemen couldn’t determine the specific cause, just the origin of the gas leak and thus, the fire that put us out of our house. It must have been a small leak because my son didn’t detect a smell. Who knows how long it had been leaking? What if he had gone to bed without ever noticing it? I can’t even let my mind go to other scenarios. As bad as it was, it could have been worse.
After my son had recovered, more or less, I asked him to write down his description of that night’s events. The insurance people needed it, and both they and the firefighters said it might be necessary to talk to him directly if they still had questions. I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that; I just wasn’t sure how it would affect him. He wrote that he had wanted to make himself a snack before picking me up at the airport. It was around 10 at night. When he turned on the burner, he heard a sound and then flames leapt up from behind the oven. He grabbed a rag, thinking he could put it out and then ran to the garage to look for a fire extinguisher. I actually keep one under the kitchen sink, but he was panicky and didn’t think to look there. Given how fast the fire grew, I doubt it would have made much of a difference. He couldn’t remember if the dogs were in or out, so he ran upstairs quickly, calling them, but they were outside the entire time. By the time he ran back downstairs, the entire kitchen was already engulfed in flames. Luckily, he had grabbed a dishcloth to cover his nose and mouth. That much fire safety I remembered, he told us. Then he ran to the neighbors, David and Marcia, and yelled — Fire! Call 911! The firefighters got there in 4 ½ minutes, David said. I’m pretty sure he timed them.
I never worried much about using natural gas in a house before. Now I have to rebuild my kitchen, not for myself but for a potential buyer, and I’m pretty sure my realtor will advise me to put in a gas stove. People who fancy themselves as good cooks demand them. By the time the contractor installs the gas stove and the gas dryer, the city will have inspected everything for safety, so I shouldn’t really worry about it. But I do. When I find the right house to buy for myself, I want an electric stove, one with those cool flat stove surfaces you can easily wipe clean. No more scrubbing in and around greasy burners – just one swipe and it’s done. My friends in Europe had stoves like that decades ago, but back then, I rarely saw them in the U.S. Now they’re common enough, so I put one on my mental list for my future home. If there’s a gas stove already installed, I will donate it. I guess I should get an electric dryer if I’m to be consistent. What about heating and hot water? Can I really avoid gas entirely? I doubt it, so to feel super-duper safe, I plan to get some natural gas detectors. Maybe then I can stop thinking so much about gas.