F i r e a n d L i g h t : A Cautionary Tale
Remember the grade school Science lesson about making fire
with a magnifying glass and the sun? I had not thought about that in a long time until yesterday.
As the seasonal turns bring the sun closer to us, even mid-April Buffalo offers an intensely blazing late afternoon sun from the West. After a visit to Burchfield Penney and a late lunch fish fry at Nye Park on that glorious Spring day, I was relaxing on the sofa listening to the Dear Sugar podcast when I smelled a vague burning odor, the kind that is fairly common. Perhaps someone was firing up their grill nearby?
The sound of sirens is also common in this neighborhood, but when loud voices and pounding appeared to be right outside my window, I opened the door to see a team of firemen spraying water from their hoses on items pulled from the downstairs apartment, as black billowing smoke choked the air.
“Please step out, Ma’am,” I was told. I always imagined tossing important items into a bag—purse, laptop, notebook of passwords and other important papers–if confronted with an actual fire. I complied with the request and stepped outside, wearing my slippers, to join neighbors who had assembled.
We speculated on possible cause—stove, appliance, wiring?
Thankfully, the fire fighters had been called by a neighbor who noticed the smoke as she happened to walk by.
Retreating inside, I had pulled down the shades to soften the blinding rays of the sun, as that sun was busy burning through the window glass in the apartment below me onto a simple table–a smoldering fire was underway.
Thank you concrete floors
Nobody was hurt and the fire was extinguished. As it
turned out, no electrical items had been left turned on. My neighbor returned
to a soot-covered ceiling and a puddle of water on the floor. A screen had been
removed to open a window without breaking glass. A charred table was leaning
against a wall outside.
The mystery culprit turned out to be a magnifying glass set on a tray of papers that sparked in the intensity of the late afternoon sun.
This really happened!
You may want to look around your environment to be sure that no
magnifying glass device is casually placed in line with direct sunlight.
Curiously, the event took place on Easter weekend, a time marked by biblical lore about holy fire and miracles. My Good Friday miracle was not being burned out of my home–not losing the art that will comprise half of The Future of Something, a show to be opening in two weeks
I may need to reconsider renters insurance.
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