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November 4, 2005

I think the adrenaline has worn off

or, how not to spend a Friday Night at home.

John and I were sitting watching EWTN. At the end of The World Over, I went into the kitchen to get a cup of tea, preparatory to coming upstairs and settling down for the night. The dishwasher was humming away, washing the dinner dishes. I noticed an orange glow and smoke coming from the bottom of the dishwasher just as we both heard an electrical crackle from the same spot. John ran down to the basement to shut off the circuit breaker to the dishwasher, I called 911, he opened the dishwasher door and punched a hole in the melting plastic to get to the fire, he poured water on the fire while I talked to the dispatcher. By the time the fire department arrived, (maybe 4 minutes?)the fire was out, and John was busily disassembling the dishwasher to make sure that there were no smouldering areas.
The smoke alarm didn't go off until after we had the fire almost out.

Right now, I am incredibly grateful.

If we had already been upstairs when this happened, we wouldn't have been able to stop the fire as early as we did. The dishwasher is totalled, but it didn't have time to spread to the counter or even further in the house. We don't have any smoke damage, despite the heavily plastic nature of the fire. Not even any of the dishes were damaged.

We live 4 blocks from the local fire station. We have a fire hydrant in our front yard, so the firefighters know where we live. We are always careful to keep the fire hyrant shoveled out during the snowy season.

It was scary, but once again I realized that through years of practice, John and I can function almost seamlessly during a crisis.

I am once again grateful for the sheer competency of the man I married. He knew exactly where the breaker was and was able to turn it off within a few seconds. If I had been home alone, I would have probably had to turn off the entire house! He then had the presence of mind to use the nearby and available resources (broom handle to punch a hole in the melted plastic, jug of water to pour over the fire and thereby extinguish it). You may be thinking that you don't pour water on an electrical fire - but it wasn't an electrical fire, it was a plastic fire that had been started by an electrical short.

When the fire crew finished disassembling the door, it appeared that the fire had started in a bundle of wires that were pinched by the door opening and closing. Looks like a design flaw to me.

Anyhow, we got everything disconnected, and the shell of the defunct dishwasher hauled outside. I washed the dishes by hand, using the rack from the machine as a counter rack. Now, to try to calm down a little more and get some sleep.

Oh, and you have to imagine just how the cats reacted to all this excitement! I have quite a few claw marks from trying to herd them into a safe area while the firefighters ran the heavy duty fan to clear the air.

I've had quite enough excitement for the nonce. Now, I have to go shop for another dishwasher. I don't think we'll buy another GE, somehow.

Posted by alicia at November 4, 2005 10:38 PM

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Heavens to Betsy! Thank goodness that nothing worse happened. That sounds like quite enough!

Though I did have to giggle at the thought of what trying to "herd cats" must actually have looked like. I can't even imagine herding our one cat, much less several.

Posted by: Julie D. at November 5, 2005 1:02 AM

Glad to hear that this had a happy ending. A high school teacher in our town had his house burn down because of a fire caused by a dishwasher. Thankfully no one was home at the time.

Posted by: KatieButler at November 5, 2005 9:10 AM

Makes me want to hand wash from now on, I tell you. Didn't a midwife friend of yours loose her house from a similar situation?

Posted by: Renee at November 5, 2005 11:16 AM

Thank the guardian angels!

I'm never running my dishwasher overnight ever again, that's for sure.

Posted by: Cin at November 5, 2005 11:28 AM

who knew dishwashers were such a fire hazard?
I'm glad that you and dad and bethany and the cats and the house are okay.
love ya,
jess :)

Posted by: jess at November 5, 2005 9:10 PM

Oh, my! Glad you're all okay.

Posted by: Jamie at November 5, 2005 11:02 PM

I have to agree with Jess. Dishwashers as a fire hazard?! I have a gas clothes dryer and two wood stoves in the house. I worry far more about them... and I don't have a hydrant nearby my place! Yikes! The privileges of living in the boonies, I guess.

Glad you're all safe and sound.

(still trying to cope with the idea of dishwashers as fire hazards... Wow!)

Posted by: Scott at November 5, 2005 11:42 PM

Very scary...
Glad you're all OK.

Posted by: Ellyn at November 7, 2005 9:16 AM

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