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Friday, May 20th, 2005

A Little Excitement

Last night I wanted to go to bed early because I had been up until almost three a.m. the night before, drinking wine and working on my Mambo setup. (I’ve decided to throw the whole thing over to a new NACE San Diego website, where my goals are fairly limited in scope and I can use to time to build skills before I tackle my own website, which will probably be an open-ended monster.) So of course, something interesting had to happen.

My wife was talking outside with a friend and she came in excitedly saying that the dumpster was on fire. My immediate thought was, of course, “how did you manage to do that?”, but as it turned out she had nothing to do with it.

So I came outside and yes, there was a lot of smoke coming from the cinder block enclosure where they keep the dumpster for our block of condos. So I grabbed the extinguisher out of the back of my SUV and walked over. As I got closer I saw that the dumpster wasn’t on fire, but there were flames visible in the large wheeled plastic bin behind it that they use for recyclables. It was the one for newspaper. The lid was closed and I hesitated a bit before opening it, but since there was a huge hole cut into the top and it didn’t look like the fire was having any trouble getting oxygen, I went ahead and flipped the lid and squirted a lot of dry chemical into it.

The flames went away immediately, but smoke continued to billow out. I kept giving it squirts but since it was an enclosed space I couldn’t tell whether the white stuff that continued to come out was smoke or chemical. The flames were out and I guess I hoped that I had put enough powder in the bin to smother the embers, and I didn’t want to hang around all night, so I tossed the extinguisher back into the SUV and went back inside. Sure enough, in about ten minutes my wife came in again and said that it was still smoking, and it was – pretty badly – so I knew there was a good bit more work to do.

I went out and dragged the bin around to a clear concrete area and tipped it on its side, pouring the contents out. The fire had taken pretty good hold. I looked at the stuff I had poured out and it seemed like there was more than one large smoking clump of paper embers. It wasn’t very hot, so I was able to move stuff around by hand, looking for the glowing parts and anything that looked like it could have started the fire. I had a bit more chemical left and squirted it onto the smoking parts, but I really needed water and I didn’t have a hose, so I was thinking about going back and filling up a bucket when the fire department showed up.

The firemen asked me if I had got it out and I told them it was still smoking pretty badly, so they parked the truck and a couple of them walked over. It hadn’t even occurred to me to call the fire department. I guess I consider them to be a resource you used when you couldn’t put out a fire by yourself, and I knew I could handle this, but I guess other people in the complex thought differently, which explained why I was the only person out there actually doing anything about it.

The firemen pulled out a water extinguisher and doused all the debris down pretty well, and used a shovel to turn the stuff over to make sure it was thoroughly wetted. They even shovelled it all back into the bin when they were done, which was great, because cleaning up was something I was starting to get concerned about. I didn’t know whether I could walk away from the mess and just give the maintenance people a call the next day.

One of the firemen was pretty tall. It’s interested to see how that affects me. I get nervous standing next to people when I can’t see over their head unless I know them really well. I’m 6′ 5″ and I was in bare feet, and I sized this guy up (trying to be unobtrusive about it) and with his boots and the slope I figured I probably still had an inch on him, and that made me feel better. Obviously I’m lucky that I’m not in the NBA or even the NFL, because a lot of people would be around that were taller than me, but then maybe I could learn to get over this almost subconcious macho “I’m better than you” thing I have about height. My little brother is two or three inches taller, but I still out weigh him and I’m sure I could take him in a fight (not that I would ever want to have to find out), so I’ve learned to live with it. Still, it seems kind of primitive that I even think stuff like that, but there’s no use denying that I do.

Posted by Greg in Posts About Me

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