20 April 2011

Hafiz Adewuyi

Fiery Sunday

I was jolted awake barely an hour into the day – 20th December, 2009 – by perpetual heavy bangs on my locked room door. The way I felt made me realize that I hadn’t had up to 4 hours of sleep and the first emotion that streamed through me was hate of whoever was disturbing my peace at this time when I needed it most. As I came to more consciousness and realised it wasn’t just my troublesome mum (that’s what I thought of her at the time) who was at the other side of the door, I let out a scornful shout at my sister who happened to be the perpetrator at that instant; I demanded to be told why I deserved this punishment and the reply that came was, “Fire!”.

That must’ve sent a chill through my spine, because I instantly rose from my bed and unlocked the door. What happened next was a freaked out mum grappling me in an attempt to seize the key to my room. “What effrontery?” I thought. Why did I have a separate room if I couldn’t be spared a bit of privacy? I won the battle for the key anyway. Content, I looked out through the kitchen window and not seeing the threatening brightness I expected to see from a fire, I went back to the comfort of my bed to continue my sleep. Barely had I settled on the bed than mum made another panic-filled announcement, “Hafiz, the house is on fire”. At this time, I must admit the fact that I was really scared and my first thought was how to rescue my dearest laptop; I didn’t work on that thought anyway.

I raced down the dark staircase and out of the door to our flat to meet a gathering of neighbours staring hopelessly at a seemingly harmless glow which was feeding on the wooden material of the PHCN metre box – the box is located at the side of the main building. The glow was the aftermath of an electrical spark which had occurred earlier in the box. On first thought, I wondered why the benign fire hadn’t been put out by the on-lookers, but on another, I realised the catch; there were electrically-charged wires adjacent to the burning wood and most feared the consequence of attacking an electrical fire with water. Frantic phone calls were being made to whoever was unlucky enough to be on my mum’s could-be-of-help list; disrupting their sleep as she had mine. Mum’s irrelevant panic pissed me off more than anything else. She called her elder brother, with the hope that he would be able to contact the fire brigade or something. The effort was futile however as all he could do was suggest courses of action to take to suppress the fire; the fire whose wildness, mum had exaggerated badly due to her panic.

While we all stood there, praying in our minds, a neighbour who was trying to break off the glowing part of the wooden frame by attacking it with a mop stick accidentally caused a short-circuit in the burnt and naked wires and there was a spark which set real fire on the wood. Luckily, the fire died down in a matter of seconds, leaving the glow once again. At this point, my instincts made me suggest that we prepare a soap-water solution – a good fire fighter as I’d learnt at Sea School – just in case the fire grew out of control. A few of us made sure my suggestion was carried out. Next, someone remembered car fire extinguishers and we got the one in my mum’s car out. Someone attacked the glow with it, but to no avail.

Mum went on to call the PHCN officials whose contacts, she had. This was to ask them to instruct the technicians at the station to ‘munolo’ for a moment, so we could attack the fire with water without fear of electrocution. All the officials could offer, however, was empty promises, as the electricity supply was left on till and well beyond the end of the ordeal.

Probably realizing that she couldn’t afford spending valuable sleep hours playing spectator to a benign glow, a neighbour finally came up with the working idea; and she didn’t need to share it with anyone. She got a mop from god-knows-where and dipped it in the detergent solution that had been prepared. Using the well-soaked mop, she then fearlessly attacked the glow by pressing the wet mop against the wood surface on which it laid. As she removed the mop from the glow, there was a lift in the mood of everyone as apparently, her idea had worked; the glow that had kept us all awake till now had been smothered. We all beamed with relief and goodwill and thanksgiving filled the air before each family retired to its flat. I, my mother and sisters got to our flat and probably said a prayer of thanks to the almighty before retiring to bed again; little did we know what fate had in-stock for us after daybreak.

Subscribe to this Blog via Email :