Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fearing Fire

I’m a pyromaniac. I admit it. I love things burning. Lighting matches and candles, bonfires and barbeques, incense burners and lighters. I love it. The smell of a log fire, the flickering light of candles, the crackle of incense on hot charcoal. It gives me a little thrill every time.

So I was more than delighted to be offered the chance of fire-training at work today. We had an excellent instructor who used to be a senior fireman and now specialises in fire safety and prevention in historic buildings. We watched some truly horrifying films on how quickly a blaze can spread and how apathetic people can be to a fire or a fire alarm.

And yes. We got to put out real fires. I did three – two in a ‘waste paper basket’ (water and CO2 extinguishers) and one in a pan (with a fire blanket). Hugely exciting. I want to do it again.

More important, though, was our instructor’s point that people aren’t afraid of fire any more. And the more I think about it, the more I think he’s absolutely right. Fire is our friend. We light fires in our houses every day and think nothing of it. But if your smoke detector goes off, what’s the first thing you think? Fire? Or do you think: ‘someone’s burnt the toast again’?
When the fire alarm goes off at work, how many people just sit there, assuming it’s a false alarm. I know we did when our went off last week. And we’re on the top floor of our old building with one narrow, winding staircase between us and the street.