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Hell Night

Original poster: stork <stork@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>


Over the past twenty years I have enjoyed Tesla coiling and various high
energy-HV pursuits.  I have collected a vast array of books, instruments
and just plane interesting and good "stuff".  I have made many different
coils, projects, models and instruments.  My three car garage turned
into a two car garage with a hobbyist lab/shop in one bay and along two
walls.  In addition to my electronic equipment, I put together a modest
shop with many tools and power equipment.  As time went by my collection
grew bigger and even better and I have spent enumerable pleasurable
hours with my hobby.  I know our avocation is often considered
dangerous, but I always practice it with care and caution.

On 3/24/05 I left work and arrived home about 5:30 PM.  I parked my 2000
Ford Expedition in the middle bay and went through the breezeway into my
house.  I went up to my small office just off my bed room on the second
floor of my house to work on my computer.  Just after 7:00 PM we heard a
muffled boom and the windows shook a little.  My wife asked if I heard
that noise and I said 'yes, I think it's just a truck in front of the
house' (the road crews were re-surfacing the road at night).  She
thought someone was trying to enter our house through the back so we
turned on the back outside lights and there seemed to be no problem.  We
heard another noise down stairs so I went down to investigate.  Nothing
and no one was in the house.  But, as I rounded the corner to the
breezeway I heard a muffled cracking sound in the garage.  I was sure
someone was in the garage.  I cracked the door open and reached in and
flipped on the light.  I opened the door and to my complete surprise and
astonishment I found not a person, but fire and black smoke billowing
up.  I have two garage fire extinguishers, but immediately knew I could
not manage the situation with them.  I slammed the door and told my wife
to call 911.

I ran back through the house and out the front door to the driveway in
front of the garage.  The intense heat caused two garage doors to
partially open about half way.  The flames quickly spread and completely
engulfed my Expedition and my wife's just paid for 1997 BMW.  The fire
spread incredibly fast.  At that point, I knew it was really dangerous
and yelled for my wife to run out the back door onto our dock, which she
did.  I ran out to the street to direct the fire trucks when they came.
Even though the fire station is only two miles away it seemed like it
took them forever to get there and set up.

The fire was an inferno at this point.  The garage was totally consumed
in flames and there were about a dozen more explosions.  There was one
huge explosion and fire and debris ejected about 50 feet out the garage
doors and the garage roof lifted up several feet.  A fire ball went up
past the top of the surrounding oak trees to about 75 - 100 feet.  One
oak tree caught on fire.  The fire started going up the breezeway under
the eves to my house.  At that point, I suddenly knew the house would
catch on fire and probably burn to the ground.

The Navy and Coast Guard were conducting night maneuvers out on the St
Johns River behind my house.  A helicopter saw my wife on the end of the
dock and directed a Coast Guard boat over to the dock with its search
light.  My wife sure did appreciate those two guys coming over to help
her.  I did too.

When the fire engines arrived the fire was up to the breezeway and
starting to enter the house.  These guys were tremendous.  Their plan
was to attack the fire at the breezeway/house and try to cut it off from
the inferno in the garage.  Miraculously, it worked.  It took over three
hours to get the fire out.

We got out with the clothes on our backs and are in a Holiday Inn now.
Our home is extensively damaged and we will be out of it for about eight
months for repair.  The breezeway, adjacent trees, garage and both cars
are destroyed.  My beloved equipment, tools and invaluable treasures no
longer exist.

Of course, the real question is how did all this happen? I will tell
you categorically our hobby had nothing at all to do with this
catastrophe. When I initially went into the garage and saw the fire, it was under the Expedition engine area. Flames were coming out around the driver's side wheel well and around the hood where it was fitted to the SUV. A large amount of black smoke was also coming out of this area. There was no other area burning or out of order in the garage. The fire was entirely caused by the car.

I write only to inform you disasters can and do happen, and that we should all continuously strive for safety in what ever we do.

The only good thing about all of this is Anne and I are still alive and
not hurt.  Even though it will take a good year of our lives to recover,
only material things were lost.  Oh well, I don't even own a screw
driver now.