Sunday, October 9, 2011

An Earthshattering "FOOP!"

I'm still combing crispies out of my hair and beard, as it appears my head was a bit closer to the fireball than it seemed at the time. At the time, I was rather too busy to worry about the condition of my facial hair.

I put a new filter on my heater yesterday morning. There wasn't anything obviously wrong with the old filter, but it had gone through two winters. I had a new filter, so it seemed reasonable to replace it. That was basically my last reasonable heater-related action for the entire day.

I'd say I don't know what I was thinking, but the undeniable truth is that I wasn't thinking at all. And when dealing with flammable gases one must always think. It almost cost me my trailer.

I noticed at the time that the new filter did not screw on to the fitting right. Not cross-threaded, but once screwed all the way on it wouldn't tighten. I resolved that I must correct that before installing the heater, but it was early in the morning, I was really just taking pictures for a TIS post, and didn't get around to actually re-installing the heater until almost sunset. By then I'd forgotten all about the filter threads.

Now, that's just Joel being Joel - I don't often remember by lunch what I had for breakfast. The really unforgivable thing was that, as I was working the igniter to get the air out of the hose, I SMELLED PROPANE.

NEVER, NEVER DO FIRE-RELATED THINGS WHEN YOU SMELL PROPANE. I know this, but apparently I didn't know it as far down in my bones as I should have. Bet I do now, boy.

The pilot lit, and I turned on the first burner. It didn't look right - there should be no actual flames. I just thought "That doesn't look ri..." and was actually reaching for the valve to turn it off when the cloud of propane in which I was standing ignited.

The next few minutes were somewhat busy. I ran outside, chasing the dogs and cat in front of me, turned off the gas at the bottle, and ran back inside to fight fire, if any. There was. There were in fact two secondary fires in addition to the residual propane still burning from inside the heater casing. The heater was quickly dealt with - and miraculously undamaged - but I saw flickering light coming from under the oven. I tore open the access door, grabbed a dish towel and put out the cheerily-burning linoleum. I stopped my lurid swearing long enough to wonder what that rustling sound was - it sounded a lot like fire, but I couldn't see any additional fire. I opened the bathroom door - apparently that propane cloud had been impressive - and found an old pair of pants I'd left draped over the tub, burning enthusiastically. I don't know what those pants were made of, but I'm sure glad I wasn't wearing them at the time. I grabbed them, ran to the door, and pitched them out onto the dirt. Where they burned completely.

It took longer to settle myself down than it did to clear the trailer of smoke. I'll take it as a learning experience that shouldn't have been necessary, but they say nothing concentrates the mind quite so well as being shot at and missed. The threads on the new filter are indeed messed up, right out of the box. The old filter seals just fine. I'm going to test the whole thing - extensively - outdoors before moving it back indoors. Even then it'll be a while before I'm comfortable around it again. Even though the whole misadventure was my fault and not the heater's.

18 comments:

Don said...

fire doesnt really help frostbite jus sayin

John B said...

Been there! Done That! Airstream trailer 20 yrs ago! Now I'm such a Nazi about any gas, that the gas considers itself lucky to be allowed to get to it's destination.

Foosh! No eyebrows! is only funny once!

LJH said...

LOL @ comment from Don.

I've heard of wearing Levi's until you could stand 'em in the corner at night but to the point of spontaneous combustion is probably some kind of higher achievement.

Seriously, BE MORE CAREFUL, DAMMIT!

Brass said...

"Foop," "Foosh." Two sounds you never want to hear in close proximity to your face.

Claire said...

Wow, Joel. Thank you for being a moron so I don't have to be.

I have the same type of heater, filter, and propane tank for my emergency heat source, and now -- without having to have a single hair singed -- I know one thing for sure not to do.

I'm glad you and the critters survived (mostly) intact. But pants on fire in the next room? And linoleum burning? Who even knew it could? (Okay, second thing on my to-do list: clean the ancient grease from under and around the oven.)

Thanks for writing about it all so well. But yikes!

Carl-Bear said...

OK, that's it. Turn in the household appliances.

Here's your Easy Bake Oven(tm), until you've learned to handle big kids' toys safely.

(Aside: I have on occasion wondered about the missing limb. Now I'm afraid to ask.)

Claire said...

Carl-Bear -- I know about the missing limb. Don't believe him if he tells you the story about losing it while being a covert mercenary in Wherethehelleverland.

But I don't think it had anything to do with appliances, either.

Hm. The way he's going, that might be some other limb at some other time.

Landlady said...

Wait, wait, wait! You're saying the trailer almost burned down and YOU STOPPED IT?!

(sigh)

Carl-Bear said...

Claire, I'll take your word for it regarding mercenaries and appliances. However, I do recall a pic he posted a while back: cat staring down at him and drooling. Running outa kitty kibble clearly sucks.

Although... mercenaries sawing it off to stick in a refrigerator to feed the cats later...

There ya go, Joel!

Carl-Bear said...

P.S. - LL, look it at this way. Next time fire strikes you can point the insurance adjusters at this blog as proof that it wouldn't have been intentional. [eg]

Anonymous said...

Joel said:
"they say nothing concentrates the mind quite so well as being shot at and missed."

True it really does and "Foop","Foosh" or "Whoomp" are all extremely close cousins of "being shot at and missed."

"Whoomp"? Err ... well you see there was this propane fuel tank that had been disconnected but that wasn't turned completely off and wasn't completely empty.
What? Ahem ... No it's Aaaaa ... just a story I heard once .... {rolls eyes}


So .... I'm glad to hear that Click doesn't have to "teach you" about messing with her "nesting space".

Now that could get ugly ....

stay safe,

gooch

LJH said...

Damn Joel, nothing like almost killing yourself to ramp up the comment volume. Busting a gut over LL's crack.

It just hit me - one of the reasons I'm so drawn to both this blog and The Independent Spirit site. It's like Perfection Valley minus the Graboids (so far). Joel as the Fred Ward character, Ian in the Kevin Bacon role. Debra as Reba and everybody with a touch of Bert going on.

If you guys ever find a deal on an old semi-end dump, jump on it.

Craig Cavanaugh said...

Yowza! Yep, propane is something to be respected and then some. Glad you and the critters were relatively unhurt! And honestly, you reacted very well to the situation in checking for fire and dealing with it promptly. Most folks would have run outside screaming and called the fire department, losing everything in the process.

Anonymous said...

*Sigh*

Kids. Some only learn the hard damn way.





Buck.

Big Wooly said...

See what happens when I'm not lookin'? Can't leave you alone fer a darn minute.
Srsly, glad you're ok. Gas scares me. I grew up with good old fashioned oil heat with a monster furnace in the basement. Really had to try hard to blow them up. You were much more likely to electrocute yourself with the igniter. Nowadays I'm in a couple old trailers with gas heat. Natural gas. Really, really natural. Out-of-the-ground, plumbed straight from the gas well, natural. What scares me is that you don't get the added protection of the stinky stuff they put in the consumer version. It has a very slight odor, but you really have to have a lot of it to notice it.
It makes lighting the pilot an exciting experience. So far, so good, though. If I change my alias from Big Wooly to Big Baldy you can assume my luck has run out.

Joel said...

Heh - I should blow shit up more often, it gets the comments coming. In fact I'm headed out to the tractor right after this...

Landlady, look on the bright side. If I'd let the trailer burn down it never would have rolled. The chassis wouldn't burn, and I still need to get rid of it somehow. Guess I could cut it up with a torch, but how would I haul it off?

Claire, I'll thank you to leave my GD stories alone. The mercenary story is one of my favorites, and not every version excludes combat. You only heard the one that's most nearly true. An empty pants-leg has its uses.

Carl, please don't give Click any ideas. You wouldn't believe how much she can eat, and she knows where I sleep. And what on earth makes you think the trailer is insured?

LJH - How come M - er, I mean Ian - gets to be Kevin Bacon?

Craig, where would I find a fire department?

Buck, it's not only kids who insist on learning stuff the hard way. If I were sane I wouldn't be here.

BTW, all, the heater now works perfectly. But I'm afraid the bathtub is never going to be the same.

Anonymous said...

When I did something similar(a natural gas water heater), it sounded like "FUMP!". Burning hair smells really bad,and those cheap K-mart pre-Hoodie jackets catch on fire easily.
Another lesson I learned The Hard Way-never light anything that uses a liquid fuel that you didn't put the fuel in, or at least you trust the person who did. This involved gasoline in a kerosene heater....

MamaLiberty said...

BE CAREFUL!!!! So glad you are ok, Joel. Filling the blog visit between Clair's and WaronGuns would be very difficult. :)

Lit a gas water heater wrong once, never did figure out just what I did... but I'm glad hair grows back eventually. Only had the equivalent of a good sunburn on my face and hands.

Love electric water heaters....

Appreciate being deaf more and more, strangely. We had a small tornado on Friday night that destroyed roofs all around me and totally chewed up an old mobile home on the next lot.

Me? I slept through the whole thing. :)