Monday, August 11, 2008

If I had to assign blame?

I’d say it started with Alton Brown… and his damn episode that got Husband thinking about meat smokers. Don’t get me wrong – usually the things Alton brings our way are delicious and a real value-add. The smoked meat was no exception. Absolutely delish. When Husband said he was going to use the smoker on a pork roast last Sunday, I was elated. The only problem (before last week) with using the meat smoker was the smoke itself, which is plentiful to say the least. Being our neighbor when Husband is using the smoker is probably akin to living downwind from The Trail Dust Steakhouse on the night they also happen to be having a bonfire in their parking lot.

Of course, I suppose even Alton might not have been able to predict what happened next.

See, after you smoke the meat and feed it to your wife (who especially likes salmon prepared this way), you have the issue of the coals to deal with. Husband is very safety conscious. When he uses the deep fryer (for our Thanksgiving turkey) or the meat smoker, he uses them in the middle of the yard so nothing will catch fire… and the hose is right there should something go wrong. He leaves the smoker in the yard overnight, and after this latest bout even left it out there while the sprinklers ran. Nothing like a little water to help douse those coals. Or, so you’d think.

Flash to Tuesday night. I got home from visiting my brother around 8:30 or 9:00pm. Smelled smoke and thought, “man, I really feel bad for the neighbors. That smell really lingers after using that smoker thing.” It really did smell like a campfire. But, you know… no big deal. The Hawthorne tree in full bloom smelled worse than that.

11:00pm Tuesday night and Husband and I are in bed. I’m not asleep yet, so when the fire engine turns up on the street next to our house I’m the first nosey neighbor to the window. “Oh, I’ll bet it’s the older gentleman who lives in that house. I think he must be sick again. Wait, they’re moving. Honey, they’re pulling into the cul-de-sac.” Husband (from the bed), “They’re probably turning around”. Me, “No, they appear to be parked”. And all of the sudden: RAP RAP RAP on our back door (which is glass, so it was loud). Husband jumps out of bed, and goes downstairs to see what’s going on.

There is a policeman in our backyard.

“What do you all keep in the flower boxes in your back yard”, he asks my husband. Husband looks up at me and all I can think is, “Nothing. The dog digs up every flower we ever plant there so we don’t use it anymore.” Husband said to the officer, “I put the coals from the smoker in there, but they were from Sunday and they were wet.”


This was the result:
This is the flower box and fence that went up in flames. (The Kravitz Estate is on the other side of that fence. You can see their grounds through the hole.)
Luckily the neighbors behind us (who are moving out and were only home that night packing up stuff) saw the flames shooting up and turned a hose on the fire after calling 911. This is an easement in our yard for the cable boxes of the surrounding homes – and it’s littered with dried pine needles, old pine cones, and some old leaves. Perfect fire fodder… and it had just started to burn as you can see. (Also notice the lattice that encloses the area had just started to burn.)

This is the other side of the flower box. Our backyard is bordered with trees. The whole perimeter of our yard is covered in dried bark – which looks very pretty and is, most likely, very flammable. The fire didn’t reach this part of the yard yet, the dark soil you see is what the firemen (who, btw, were about 25 years old and DARLING) dug out of the flower box.

(This is what the perimeter of the yard looks like. This is the part leading from the fire site up towards our side deck.)

(This is a view of our side deck – which also would have been good fire fodder.)

And this is a view of the back of our house that is attached to the back and side decks. Please notice that the house is not burned in any way – because I am convinced that someone “upstairs” was watching out for us. (Thanks Mom!!!!)

So, after the trauma of the night as we were settling back in our bed, husband turned to me and said, “I’m sorry.”

My loving, caring, empathetic, heartfelt, best-wife-in-the-world response?

“Hey, better you than me.”


Mrs. Kravitz said...

It was definitely an exciting night for us all! I'm so glad that it didn't go further into your house or ours. In the mean time, maybe it's time we just tear the fence down and make one huge back yard between the two of us?! :)

Vanessa said...

Snarf! Better you than me. Love it! Glad no one was hurt and it's just a good blog story.

Jay said...

Firefighter Jay (who, while not yet 25, is also DARLING) says that dried pine needles and tree bark make dreadful defensible space. Remember kids, Smokey says "All dried brush, tree limbs, grass, and duff should be cleared up to 50 feet from homes!" For more helpful Smokey tips, visit

Away from my fire prevention advertising mode, tell Jim next time to not bury the coals, that makes them hold the heat, even in the presence of a little moisture. Spread them out on some cement and douse them with water, or simply let them burn out. If they're spread out enough, there won't be enough aggregate heat to ignite anything else. Hahahahahaha...

tz said...

holy cow..glad you're all okay!
change of subject..have you heard who is moving in next door?

Dodi said...

No, haven't heard about new neighbors. Have you???? Please tell me it's not some professional foster mother with skads of juvies.

This coming from the idiot neighbors who set their backyard on fire with their mad bbqing skilz, yo!!

Oh, can y'all tell that my nephew is a firefighter? (Summers only, for the BLM. That's right - he's a "hottie"!)

Jay said...

Damn right. Glad everything turned out alright though...

Martha said...

Glad to hear that nothing more extensive/serious occured. Luck, Guardian Angels and Nosey neighbors all come in handy I suppose.

And I love Mrs. K's idea...we know which character she'd be if she watched Big Love! Barb, right? Come on folks....KNOCK DOWN THAT FENCE! :)

Colleen O said...

Are you sure it wasn't Susan from desperate housewives, stealing back her measuring cup?

And, speaking as a girl scout troop leader - WOW!!
3 days later, wet and moved? That's amazing. Thank you newphew "Hottie" for the real life tips. Of course I'll have to add staying up all night staring at them because your paranoid - to my duties on brownie campouts.

So Dodi, what are you going to do to welcome the new neighbors? Invite them over for a BBQ?

Dodi said...

Maybe we'll smoke a ham and present them with the glowing coals as a welcome to the neighborhood house warming gift. (Get it? House WARMING??)

If they have kids we'll get everyone together for a meet up. Nothing like getting in to the "correct" crowd first thing in a new neighborhood.

ganelle said...

Yikes!!! That's one of those things that you get more scared AFTER it happens, thinking how bad it could have been. Glad everyone is OK!

Muffy Willowbrook said...


Holy crap - I am SO glad you guys are okay. Just imagine!

I will give Commander a stern finger waving and tell him your story. We just put the smoker right on the deck next to our house!

I better double check our fire extinguisher - make sure it hasn't expired.

Thanks so much for the heads up!