by Richard Dalton
Around 10:00 Wednesday night, after a very violent storm, wild wind and a thunder clap that made all of us jump out of our seats, our daughter came into the living room saying that she smelled a kind of sulfur, smoky smell in her bedroom which had both windows open. We all went into panic mode, trying to find the source, so with flashlight in hand, I went into the backyard, looking for a charred branch or signs of damage from the terrific lightning blast we just experienced. I found nothing.
I returned to the house, telling my daughter that if you smell it any more, let me know, but assuring her I didn’t find anything. Not too many seconds later she came back saying that from her window she saw a flame on our neighbor’s house, approximately 12 feet from our house. Now, phone and flashlight in hand, I proceeded to that side of the house and seeing the flame myself, called 911. Even as I was calling it was pretty clear to me that flame was right beneath our neighbors gas meter. We knew no one was home at that time. The flame was a small one at that moment, but I explained to the 911 operator that this was a crisis and needed immediate attention, given the fire was near a gas meter. Even while on the line to the police department a police car pulled up and that little flame continued flickering around the gas pipes and meter. In the back of my mind I was hoping the officer might pull out a fire extinguisher and deal with that small flame. But even as we were speaking, that small, hovering fire on the house found a new source to consume, natural gas.
Now, I was seriously worried for our neighbors’ house and our own. A few moments later, the Rochester fire department appeared on the scene with a truck and number of men who obviously knew what they were doing. Their first and foremost concern was for us Rochester residents, some fire fighters and police helped to evacuate the homes on the block. We were moved down to the next block as the Rochester fire department did their work. What could have been a major disaster became a late evening roller coaster ride of excitement and some neighborly interaction. What could been a serious explosion destroying two houses resulted in one broken window, one removed gas meter, and some fire fighter footprints on our neighbors’ carpet. Our house is safe and sound. By the grace of God no one was hurt.
What were the ingredients of this happy ending and averted crisis? GOOD NEIGHBORS ! ! ! No, I’m not patting myself on the back for exerting the finger power to call 911. I regularly exercise the same fingers on my cable remote. I’m not praising our neighbor across the street who would have pressed the same numerals on her phone seconds after me if I hadn’t yelled to her I was on it. The good neighbors I’m talking about are the firefighters who showed up en masse in our neighborhood’s moment of crisis. This was a tricky situation, these were flames being fed by a gas line. This was dangerous, and took some serious expertise to handle. Some of these men may have been watching the same TV show we were as their emergency beepers called them to the fire station. I was amazed how quickly they came, how many showed up, and how competent they were.
In the city of Rochester, we have a volunteer fire department. When I asked how many firefighters were actually at the fire station building, when our call came in, one firefighter said one. Each volunteer is required to live no more than 3 miles away from the station. There’s training, there’s teamwork, there’s being on call 24/7, there’s serious commitment to be this kind of good neighbor. I wish I would’ve gotten better pictures. It was too dark – but those flashing lights from the fire trucks and police cars were beautiful sight. An even more beautiful sight were these good neighbors summoned out of their homes to protect our homes. Their activity continued into the night, shutting off the gas and putting their equipment back in place. They saw to it that that broken window was boarded up before they left. The police officers also did a great job, in coordination with our firefighters.
I’d like to thank these volunteers for counting the costs, constantly being inconvenienced, and facing real dangers. Everyone on our street is extremely grateful to our Volunteer Fire Department for last nights efforts. I think those feelings run throughout our small city of Rochester. Lightning can strike anytime, accidents do happen, fire and flames get out of control. How many other kinds of emergencies can trigger 911 calls? Relax and be assured … like really good neighbors our firefighters are there.