Odd Thoughts: Speed and need for speed both surprising

Langley columnist Bob Groeneveld had a front-row seat for a house fire and learned a few things.

Two things about the fire next door surprised me.

More than surprise, it shocked me how quickly the house was consumed: how quickly the flames moved through the structure and began pouring out of the attic; how quickly the entire house turned deadly.

The other surprise was more personal: I hesitated before calling 9-1-1.

It couldn’t have been more than half a second, but the hesitation was there. There was a blink of a moment to realize what I was seeing, and another blink to decide that, yes, calling 9-1-1 would be the right thing to do.

It started with a loud thump and a rushing sound that shook the ground – like a very strong gust of wind, or a jet taking off. But it was both too loud and too sustained for either.

I stepped outside to look for the source. It seemed to come from the west, so I walked out to the garden… and holy cow!

The aforementioned flames quickly caught my attention.

I ran back inside and shouted, “Call 9-1-1!”

Donna tossed me the phone that she had already picked up.

This is all to show how quickly events transpired: so far, we’re still talking on the order of seconds, not even minutes.

By the time I got through to 9-1-1 and was transferred to the fire department – still talking seconds here, folks – I was watching the flames grow from a torch-like jet that seemed to be emanating from the basement into a fireball nearly the height and half the width of the house.

By the time I had relayed my information to the fire operator, flames were shooting from under the roof at the end of the house.

What are we talking now? A minute? Minute and a half?

I walked up my driveway to where I could see the front of the house. A tight knot developed in my gut as I hoped fervently that this was not one of the unusual times when there was anyone there, because already there was certainly nothing that I could possibly do. The building was filled to overflowing with a dense black smoke that surely had already put paid to any living thing inside.

In a few minutes, sirens announced the arrival of fire crews.

The firefighters rolled out their hoses and got right to work.

Brisk winds form the east had kept our house and garage out of danger.

There was nobody inside.

But the lesson was clear: if you want to get out of a burning house alive, you’ve got to be ready.

And fast.

• Crews called to Langley house fire

Just Posted

Olympic auditions return to Langley

An opportunity for unknown competitors to shine and, maybe, change sports

A community with eight Toastmasters groups hosted the annual B.C. conference

Jim McGregor has worn many hats through the year, from father and… Continue reading

Langley Anti-SOGI activist slams ban on dad speaking out about transgender son’s case

A judge has told the father to stop publicly objecting to his son’s gender

Langley firefighter climbs World Trade Centre in honour of 9/11 fallen

The local man is fundraising for the Memorial Stair Climb

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

Easter bombings a response to New Zealand attacks, says Sri Lanka minister

The Islamic State group asserted it was responsible for the nine bombings

PHOTOS: New commemorative loonie marks progress’ for LGBTQ2 people

But advocates say it mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved largely as a result of government actions

Inside the shoe house in Northern B.C.

A rare look inside the famous Kitseguecla Lake Road shoe house, with a tour led by owner Toby Walsh

Man charged in fatal Salmon Arm church shooting to appear in court

Matrix Savage Gathergood charged with first degree murder, aggravated assault

RCMP looking to retrace steps of woman found dead on Kelowna beach

Caitlin Midori Bradley, a 29-year-old dancer at a Kelowna bar, was originally from Surrey

Two back-to-back earthquakes strike off Vancouver Island

The first earthquake happened at 1:27 p.m., the second at 2:44 p.m.

5 to start your day

Gas prices continue to remain high, torched SUV in Vancouver linked to shooting and more

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Most Read