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How Boot Polish Kept my House from Burning Down (A true but cautionary tale)


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Hello all,

It's been awhile since I've had any ability to log on here and I apologize. I've recently left the military and had a number of struggles with my family medically which has occupied a lot of time and attention over and above moving across the country and starting a new career. I felt I should record what recently happened to us as a true account of Christmas providence.

We recently moved to a fairly rural area in Manitoba (close enough to Winnipeg that I can work there, but far enough that we live on a dirt road surrounded by cattle). It's safe to say we're not near a fully manned 24/7 fire hall.

T'was the morning four mornings before Christmas when we elected to celebrate Christmas with our three kids and ourselves. My wife likes candles, and as I'm not a huge fan, of course we had lots of candles lit. We even lit some tall ones set into a "yule log" candle holder my 5 year old had made at kindergarten this year. It was quite nice looking, holly and other Christmasy things were glued on and some candle holes were pre-bored into the wood.

Anyway, we lit all the candles, had a hearty Christmas breakfast and commenced opening of gifts. Some time later, we had agreed to head to my in-laws to drop off the kids while we each ran some errands in the city. So, candles extinguished and kids bundled up, we were off.

Having in-laws close by is a mixed bag. On one hand, a mile and a half means it's reaaaaally easy to drop your kids off there when you need some time to work uninterupted, but a mile and a half is only a mile and a half which I'm often reminded of. After socializing for some time, and realizing I really had better get working on my errands, I noticed my seventeen year old sister in-law struggling with polishing some fancy boot she wanted to wear to an upcoming wedding. It was immediately apparent she was working with inferior equipment and only making the scuffing worse.

I'm just Veteran enough that I still own a polish kit, and chock full of the Christmas spirit I said I would dart home and grab it (what's a mile and a half). Both her and my mother in-law said it wasn't necessary, but by this point it was apparent the boots were going to have the visual consistency of charcoal for the wedding if I didn't intervene.

So off I went. I figured I would be quick so I didn't bring my phone with me.

When I entered my house, I heard a mysterious beeping. Something that is important to note is that our house is one hundred and ten years old but semi-recently updated by a rather eccentric man. Strange beeping in the house didn't surprise me much as I haven't traced the source of most of the random beeps coming from the basement yet. There are wires and switches, ducting, pipes and all manner of panels and hand scrawled instructions on the basement members that I just have to assume random beeping is part of my life now. 

But this beeping was coming from the main floor, not the basement. Not having heard beeping from the main floor before I was curious. As I followed the beeping into the house, I began to notice a haze and unmistakable smell of wood-smoke. Rounding a corner, I came face to face with a window sill (which used to contain the aforementioned yule log candle holder) fully engulfed in flame.

When the human body encounters something it did not expect to encounter, there is a half second where there is a mighty struggle to interpret the information coming in from the senses.

That's a fire I thought. It's a strange sight, witnessing something the size of a campfire beginning to consume your house. There's a weird cognitive dissonance that occurs. There's a place for fires to go, and the window sill was not it.

My first sense that kicked back in was hearing. The sound of a crackling wood fire was unmistakable. The second sense to come back was touch - my hand darting to my pocket for my phone to find it empty. If I had wanted to call for help, I was reduced to standing outside and yelling and hoping that my closest neighbour (exactly 1 mile away) would hear my cries.

As the part of my brain that separates us from the animals kicked back in, I distinctly remember appreciating the significance of just how wooden my house is. The floor is hard wood, the ceiling aged wood, we have nice wood trim, and tapestry and large area rugs make up the rest of the decor. It's also incredibly dry, being 100 years old and drafty. My house is an excellent place for fires.

The fire was small by bonfire standards, but large for a fire in a place a fire shouldn't be standards and I figured I did not have a lot of time to keep the rest of living room from catching. As the higher functions caught up to the senses interpretations, I remembered we had an old fire extinguisher under a sink and ran to get it. I believe my thoughts at this time we're something like:

Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit

I dutifully remembered the hours of portable fire extinguisher training I received to stay DAG'd green, and neglected every step in the process except pull pin and aim towards fire. (As it turns out, these are the most important steps!)

Man, fire extinguishers make a mess inside your house. I did put out the fire, to only minor damage (still waiting on what insurance will say - goodbye claim free discount).

On the plus side, my house smells happily of campfire smoke. On the minus side, a thin layer of fire extinguisher dry chemical has covered my entire main floor.

We figure we must have missed blowing out those candles when we left, and they burned down to the wood, which caught, and once it had reached a critical mass to spread, my window trim caught as well. The damage seems to me to be pretty minimal but I have a great story to tell at work now.

So that's how boot polish kept my house from burning down. If I hadn't gone back to get some, we wouldn't have been back for hours and I doubt we'd have anything left.

Merry Christmas. Mine certainly will be.
Glad you, your family & your house are OK, and hope the transition is going well for you.

If you are having any struggles in that part of your life, there are plenty of ears here to bend.
Holy CR%P.

I'm checking the fire extinguishers in my house right now!

Glad to hear that it all ended well, and I hope it was Kiwi.... it's the only proper polish for boots, or saving houses. :)

As said, glad to hear you caught it on time. Now checking that my fire extinguisher is in a handy location, easy to access.
dangerboy said:
As said, glad to hear you caught it on time. Now checking that my fire extinguisher is in a handy location, easy to access.

And add my name to the list. Yipe got one under my sink. Thanks for taking the time to write the story of your experience. A good lesson to be learned by all.
Our town's volunteer fire department has a sign out front, where they routinely change the notices about safety or community events.

For this season, it read "Do not leave candles unattended."

Apparently that was too confusing for some, because they added "...when lit."

I was wondering how many people were putting all the non-burning candles into a bag to take with them whenever they left the house.  :facepalm:
This is for all the naysayers out there who question the value of uniform care and, especially, boot polishing. We now have definitive proof that it can save your home!

I am glad everything worked out. Thank-you for sharing the story!
Glad you averted disaster, JesseWZ!  Was it ‘Parade Gloss’ or just C1A1?
The mile and a half thing...boy, do I feel you ;)

...But seriously, thank goodness the universe is known to work in mysterious ways from time to time!

I’m sure, far beyond what you mentioned in your post, you’ve contemplated what the outcome could’ve been. I’m so glad there’s only minimal damage/cleanup for you and your family, considering, and hope you’ve been able to enjoy the rest of your holiday a little bit.
Know what you mean about living in an old house. Attached is our kitchen fire extinguisher. (With an approved extinguisher nearby.)

Glad it was resolved without significant damage!


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Thanks for the replies and well wishes all.

I can confirm it was indeed Kiwi Parade Gloss. Only the best.
JesseWZ said:
Thanks for the replies and well wishes all.

I can confirm it was indeed Kiwi Parade Gloss. Only the best.

For the win!  :salute: