Life Imitates Art

Well, that was a bit of excitement.

The kids were tucked in bed, Kathy had dropped off to sleep, and I was playing Grand Theft Auto, enjoying the pyrotechnics as I caused cars to burst into flame and explode. At about 12:30, someone started ringing the doorbell insistently. Annoyed at what I expected was some college drunk or neighborhood kid playing a prank, I went to the door. Opening it revealed less of a change of atmosphere from the game than I expected: a woman shouting “My car’s on fire!” and a Ford Explorer parked on the opposite curb with flames licking out of the engine compartment.

I ran around back where we keep our hose, disconnected it, and ran around to the front with it. (With its reel and multiple lengths, it probably exceeded the 20lb lifting limit that my doctor imposed for another week, but I figured if there was any circumstance that justified slowing up my recovery, this was probably it.) We pulled it out to the car, and the woman’s husband started dousing the fire. It quickly became apparent, however, that a garden hose wasn’t up to the task.

I popped inside and called 911, and then went back out to see the fire growing. Though I expect it wasn’t more than a minute or two, the wait until we heard sirens seemed interminable, as the fire began to spread. By the time the fire trucks arrived, the interior of the car was full of flame, and the horn started sounding as the wiring shorted out. There were several dramatic showers of sparks, collapsings of glass, and other pyrotechnics, and I doubted for a while whether the fireman were going to win out before the surrounding trees and grass caught fire.

Fortunately, they were able to contain the fire in about five minutes once they had the big hoses turned on it. We stood around for another 20 minutes or so waiting for the wrecker to haul the charred carcass, now lacking seats, windows, and a dashboard, back to the owner’s house.

Given the sirens, flashing lights, and sounding horn of the flaming car, I was somewhat amazed that the neighborhood didn’t show up in force, but evidently I live on a street of sound sleepers. Mercifully, everyone was uninjured, though a bit in shock, and was able to return home an hour or so after this crazy adventure started. And I have determined that I unequivocally prefer simulated car fires to the real thing.