How close have you come to starting your house on fire? Thankfully, I've never had to call the fire department. I have had my share of close calls, though.
The first time can't be blamed on anything other than good ol' stupidity on our part. It involved this chair and that wall furnace.
(I'm happy to report it didn't involve that cat.)
The first winter we lived in that apartment, I got a fuzzy fleece-y blanket for Christmas that occasionally ended up on the back of that chair. One night, I woke up to the smell of smoke. I have a super sensitive nose. (Bad for migraines; good for waking me up out of a dead sleep at the slightest hint of smoke.)
I ran around the corner into the front room and found the blanket smoldering on the back of the chair. I grabbed it, quickly walked to the bathtub leaving a trail of smoke (amazingly it didn't burst into flames), doused it, then woke up my husband and told him we needed to get rid of his game chair the non-flame-engulfed route.
The second time I came dangerously close to losing every item I loved was also in winter, and also involved a Christmas gift. I got one of those gel candles in a glass container, similar to this:
I learned the scary way that they're right when they say to never leave a lit candle unattended. Luckily, I was at home when the gel in the candle turned to liquid, got really hot, burst the glass container, and sent a puddle of flaming gel across the dresser. I heard the exploding glass and was able to put it out before it burnt through all the layers of varnish on the top of the dresser.
That piece of furniture was from my grandma. The thing has 1/8th of an inch of varnish on it, at least. The surface is a little cracked, but no burn marks. They just don't varnish furniture like that anymore. No one has that kind of patience.
The third time the hairs on my arm stood on end at the smell of smoke was the most traumatic--for me, anyway. I hate to think what might have happened if we had not been home. I don't think it was simply chance that I happened to be there when this went down. It involved the "man closet".
Since the apartment we lived in was so tiny, there was no space to put the computer except in this closet in the kids' room. My daughter would use the screen saver as a night light. It would flip through pictures of animals as she went to sleep. I would go in and turn the monitor off after she was out.
My daughter had some major sleep issues. She was near impossible to get to sleep, and would not stay asleep. She would wake up 2 or 3 times a night, frustrated and screaming, until she was around three years old. There was no logical (we thought) reason why she was such a horrible sleeper, so there was no way to solve it. We tried letting her cry it out, followed the method exactly, but it only made her more frustrated and louder. What worked in the end was transitioning her crib to a toddler bed! It was like flipping a switch--she'd still wake up once a night, but would go back to sleep easily and there was no more screaming. She just needed her freedom, I guess. The funny thing is that she would never leave her bed, even in the morning. She may as well have been in a crib. She would call for me and wait for me to tell her she could get out.
Anyway, this particular night was bad. She was in the toddler bed by this point, so I had gotten used to her sleeping better. She just couldn't stay asleep that night. My frustration grew each time I had to pull back the warm covers when I heard her crying for me over the monitor. I was on my own that night, so there was no one to help shoulder the burden of getting up with her.
About the 4th time she woke up, I spent a good half hour with her, calming her down. I was resting next to her on the bed, to help her go back to sleep. I carefully stood up in my sleepy stupor, trying to keep my movement perfectly smooth, so as not to wake her up. I breathed a sigh of relief when she--and her baby brother in the nearby crib--didn't stir. I was creeping toward the door when I heard a sizzling, crackling sound. My peripheral vision caught a flicker of orange. There were flames inside the computer monitor, and it was getting worse.
I quickly turned the monitor off, turned the lights on, yanked all the cords out of the power strip below, and ran to get the extinguisher. I was shaking and all my senses were on high alert. There was no need to use the fire extinguisher, thank goodness. The fire was out by the time I grabbed it. There wasn't much smoke at all, but it was enough to stink up the room. I hefted the monitor onto the coffee table in the other room and aired out the bedroom, while trying to explain to my very confused daughter what I was doing. I think she enjoyed the spectacle.
It took a good two hours for my nerves to calm down and to get the kids back in bed. My firefighter was at work, sleeping, while the real action was happening at home. I missed him terribly. Some nights I could really use a big hug--and that was definitely one of them. However, my frustration over having to get up in the middle of the night vanished. I was nothing but grateful that she woke me up so that I was in the room the very moment when the monitor caught on fire. My firefighter wasn't there to hug me, but there was certainly no lack of hugs going around that night.
So far, we haven't had any near disasters in our new house, thank goodness. I wonder how many near misses people typically have.