Monday, October 17, 2011
I've always heard it...and it's not that I didn't believe it...I just never thought it would actually happen. I've been told to never leave my dryer running when I am not home, and today I learned why firsthand. I am sitting at my desk at work when a passer-through comes in and advises us to call the fire department. Our shelter was up in smoke. Leaving my office manager to make the call, my first concern was for the animals inside. I bolted out the door only to meet a heavy smell of burning and a cloud of smoke exiting the front door. Without a thought, I ran in.
Finding the source of the smoke to be the backside of our dryer, I quickly turned the machine off and ran to grab crates. The cat room was filled with a nearly opaque film. I had to get them out before the inhalation caused any serious effects.
With each pass, I held my breath as long as I could while stuffing feline after feline into crates and passing them out to my co-workers. Each time I exited the building, I was forced to cough up the smoke. As the tears were streaming down my face and the snot was pouring from my nose, my thoughts turned to a video I once watched of a set of marines running out of the gas chamber. Though I am certain it was nowhere close to the torture they endured, my reaction to the smoke inhalation produced similar results.
Our kennel attendant then came in to help and we were able to get the rest of the cats to the safety of the fresh outdoor air.
Our concern then turned from necessary action to precaution. The fire department was still not on scene and we didn't know how long the dryer would smoke before it finally burst into flames. We were not going to chance losing the rest of the animals by simply neglecting to use the time we had available. We moved into the dog kennels where one by one we put the dogs in the outdoor pens and crates of their own.
Finally, we realized the smoke was seeping into the isolation room that housed about a dozen more felines. As we started to remove these animals, the fire department showed up just in time for the dryer to explode into a full blown blaze. They were able to extinguish the flames as we removed the last of the animals.
We proceeded to let the building air out a bit before cleaning the kennels and replacing the animals into their temporary home. A few hours after the initial exposure, myself and the kennel attendant were re-examined by the local EMS team for slight chest pains from smoke inhalation. We were put on oxygen for a bit to clear our lungs.
All in all, however, we counted the day successful and were content in knowing that we were able to escape with no casualties. We also came out with a great appreciation for the efforts of firefighters on a daily basis. It is no simple task to be taken lightly. As I write, I am left with a feeling of thankfulness...for my own heart and for the heart of others who without a second thought threw ourselves into the situation regardless of any danger it might have entailed. With this, I am reassured that I am right where I need to be.
And of course...a lesson learned...because if I were not home, it would be my own animals trapped and I would not be there to rescue them. Lucky for me...and hopefully, after reading this, for you...it will never happen.