Pretty … or should that be pretty dangerous?

Posted by Amanda Furness

There is a school of thought that believes we humans learn best by using our common sense and doing rather than by someone hypothetically telling us what to do. I had tended to agree with this as regards the practicalities of life, whether it was administrative systems at work or learning to put up a picture without hammering your nail through the water pipe lurking behind the wall at home. But a recent ‘incident’ made me reassess my opinion. It made me realise that, in some situations, listening and absorbing information is invaluable so that if you are ever faced with said ‘incident’, you spring into unrehearsed action and you don’t let your common sense go up in smoke … literally!

You can picture the scene, Friday evening and four women are sitting around a dinner table discussing their news and putting the world to rights. There is a lovely ambience, partly created by the company, food and accompanying wine; and partly by the comfortable environment and subtle lighting using many pretty candles all around the room.

Suddenly, the lighting in the room seems to change, with a flickering shadow appearing on one wall. At the same time someone asks if anyone else can smell burning. All at once the peaceful scene turns into something from a Carry On movie. A fire is discovered in the bathroom just outside the kitchen. This room has also been lit by candles and the glass holder of one of them has cracked, allowing the flame to reach a wicker basket. Not only that but the basket is sitting on top of a wooden bookcase filled with books and the fire is spreading fast … it is at this point that someone really well drilled in theory might have been handier than four people trying to think on their feet and confusing the do’s with the don’ts from the odd “What to do if fire breaks out” sessions they obviously hadn’t paid sufficient attention to at school.

It was just as well the source of the fire was a candle rather than an electrical appliance as the immediate reaction was to get water. Considering this fire was in a bathroom and yet we all ran back to get water into any receptacle we could find from the kitchen sink gives you an indication that our cumulative common sense had temporarily gone awol!

Thankfully, the fire got put out and, apart from some delayed shock, some smoke damage and a singed bookcase, no irreparable damage was done. The feeling that has lingered though is the speed with which a relaxing evening could turn into a dangerous, life-changing event. I think the old “to be forewarned is to be forearmed” adage is what we’ll take from this experience. On which note I’m off to Google what to do if there’s a house fire caused by an electrical appliance!