Sunday, January 7, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 7, 2001

Fun House
Mystery of couple's chimney fire has an ironic twist

By June Tsukamoto
Special to The Advertiser

We were an American family from Hawaii who had recently settled on Rue de Bourgogne in the quiet village of Veneux les Sablons, France. One morning the calm was shattered by desperate pounding on our only door. I was startled to find a middle-aged, ruddy-faced stranger who excitedly rambled on. Grasping my arm, he pulled me down the flight of stairs. He pointed to our chimney, from which danced threatening orange flames.

By this time, Allen, my husband, was aware of the situation and, after a few confused trips up and down the stairwell, he finally drove off in search of the fire chief’s home to relay our plight. We had no phone, nor did our neighbors.

The local volunteer firefighters quickly arrived, followed soon by the fire truck. The firemen charged up the stairs and pointed their portable extinguisher into position for action. They pumped - and pumped. Alas! Not a drop of water. Two men frantically began cupping water from my kitchen faucet into the extinguisher. Another emptied the furnace of its burning coal (onto my clean white floor) while two others clambered onto the rooftop.

Minutes ticked away and the licking tongues of flame were gradually swallowed into the chimney. Indoors, the diligent fighters continued to fill the extinguisher. They had yet to use it and the fire was already out.

Later, through an interpreter friend, we learned that accumulated waste matter around the chimney’s interior had ignited, eventually burning itself out. We couldn’t understand it. As other good citizens did, we’d had our chimney cleaned prior to using the furnace as required by French law.

Why the fire, then, you ask? Only the fire chief knows. Coincidentally, he was also the official village chimney sweep whose services we had used.

If you have a true, humorous, unpublished short story about your family or a family-related topic, send it with your name, city and telephone number to: Fun House, Ohana Section, The Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; e-mail; fax 535-8170. Preference is given to stories of 200 words or less.

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