Thursday, 17 February 2011

Smoke and soot!

Yesterday was a terrible day here at the Hilltop House – we almost had a fire.
The redecorated and refurnished TV-room was pretty well finished, we had moved in the furniture, placed everything on the shelves and hung lamps and pictures. Then suddenly, less than an hour after I hung up the brand new white curtains, the furnace exploded. We had just sat down with a coffee to enjoy the sight of our new room, when there was an ear-deafening bang. Black smoke and soot belched out of the furnace and filled up the entire house. Hubby ran as fast as he could to close the tap to the oil tank, and we just had time to call the fire brigade before we fled the building that was fast filling up with smoke.
The fire brigade arrived quickly together with the police, but fortunately the fire had not spread. The furnace room has a steel door, which contained the flames, and when the oil supply had been turned off it burned out by itself. Judging by the sound of the blast, we imagined a ruin inside the furnace room, but the furnace was basically all right, the air vent was bent and a few other parts were blown off, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed.

The furnace looked surprisingly good after the explosion. Thankfully, the steel door managed to contain the flames. 
All is not well however in the rest of the house. The warmth from the furnace is distributed around the house via ducts, and the explosion had pushed huge amounts of soot through these ducts, which settled over everything. After the initial chaos was over and we could walk around the house again, we quickly realized that everything was covered with a fine layer of greasy, pitch-black soot. Furniture and curtains, walls and ceilings, books and pictures - all are sooty.

This is the state of our window sills - and of everything else too. 
Obviously, the TV room was worst affected. The nice new carpet is a sorry sight after the police officers and firemen have trodden the soot into it with their big boots.
Another thing is the smell - the stink of smoke and oil. Two huge extractor fans have been humming away since yesterday, it is starting to become liveable here, but it is not possible to sit down anywhere without getting dirty. The greasy soot sticks to clothes and skin and is difficult to wash away. It seems that rubbing it only smears it around, so we have a serious cleaning job this here.
The insurance assessor has visited us and believes that it should be possible to wash and clean almost everything. Fortunately there seems to be very few items that can’t be saved. Our problem is that we have the building and contents insured with two different companies. This means of course that we would have to pay an excess to both insurers, and it would cost us almost ten thousand kroner (1000 £) to have the house cleaned (in addition to the repair of the furnace of course). This is so expensive that we are considering cleaning the house ourselves. Spring cleaning will be coming early for us this year.

The surfaces may not look too bad, but at the slightest touch your hand becomes all sooty. It is simply terrible.
Fortunately, the doors to the bedroom and bathroom were closed when this happened, so there are at least two rooms that are not so critically affected. The kitchen also got less soot than the rest of the house. There is obviously a bit here as well, but it does not seem to have penetrated the cupboards and drawers. So it is habitable here and at least we do not have to move out while the washing is taking place.

All surfaces are covered in the awful greasy soot.
Of course we are glad that it did not go worse than it did, but I must admit that I think the whole thing is tragic. There have been many times during this past day that we have looked at each other and asked - "Why now, and not three weeks ago, before we started to redecorate?” It would not have been so bad then when we were going to clean everything anyway, but no, it had to happen less than an hour after we had finished refurnishing.
I guess all we can do is to roll up our sleeves and start again, but right now there is no joy to be had from the work.


  1. Those are some bad news! At least you are safe!
    Hope this doesn´t get you too down and you can start the work again soon!

  2. Så skremmende opplevelse!
    Flaks at brannen ikke spredde seg!
    Men utrolig mye sot som må fjernes da!
    Lykke til med oppryddingsarbeidet!