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  • Writer's pictureTerry Groves

B.R.A.T.S.House on Fire

Updated: Feb 2, 2020

In the early 70s, we lived in the Fort Henry Heights PMQs. We were on Lundy's Lane, near the protestant chapel. Mom and Dad felt we were mature enough to take care of things if they were away for short periods. They would usually take the three youngest, Paul, Tony, and Dale, but us older boys were trusted to be responsible. We tried to honour that, but we were brats too.

One evening, Dad was in the base hospital with a bad knee and Mom went to pick up my oldest brother Mark from work at.the A &W all the way across Kingston. Robin was cooking supper. He was frying wieners and had a pot of oil on the stove for french fries. I wasn't home, I was visiting with my grandparents in Aylmer, Ontario or my aunt and uncle in London.

I don't know where Dale was, but Tony and Paul were in the living room, laying on the floor watching TV.

Cooking meals was something we all did. It was nothing for us to boil or fry some hot dogs, put on a pot of Kraft dinner or beans, make grilled cheese, even do up a pizza kit. We had been taught to be careful around the stove, not leave things unattended, and all of us could follow a recipe or directions on a box.

I'm not sure just what happened with Robin that day. Maybe he popped out the back door to have a cigarette, we were secretly smoking at the time, Mom and Dad would never permit that. Or he was distracted by some friends, or he was watching the TV and forgot about the pot of oil on the stove. Anyway, it caught on fire.

While Rob struggled to contain the fire, he called to Tony to go outside and pull the fire alarm box that was just up the street. To fight the fire, he used a towel, and then got out a box of baking soda. By this time the flames had flared up the cupboards that were above the stove and were licking across the ceiling.

Paul went out to pull the fire bix but it didn't work so the fire truck didn't come. Rob ran out of the house and the neighbour's lady came over and asked where the foster baby that Mom was caring for, was. Rob said it was with Mom but the neighbor said she had seen Mom leave and she didn't have the baby with her. Rob ran back inside and got the baby from its carriage in the living room.

Eventually, the firemen came and managed to contain the fire, but there was quite a bit of damage to the house. The flames had been hot enough to melt the clock on the wall opposite the stove. The house had filled with smoke.

Tony, ever vigilant, was still laying on the floor in the living room. When the smoke got so thick that he couldn't see the TV, he fanned it with his hand and called over his shoulder, "Hey, is something burning?"

I didn't find out until I returned home. When I entered the house I noticed the plain tan carpet in the living room had been replaced by one with large squares with what looked like bomb explosions in the center of each. Our old black and white tv was now a new, colour tv with a channel master to turn the antenna for best reception.

I have never forgotten how Robin described the scene with Tony calmly calling out from the living room, "Is something burning?" I guess screen time has been a issue since long before cell phones.

What home emergencies did you have to deal with? Was being a brat helpful?

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