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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Mystery of the Magical Burning Trashcan

Who poured the ashtray out?

(scroll down for updates and pictures)

When you leave your latchkey kid home for two hours after school, what is the number one thing you would tell him not to do while he is home alone. I’ll give you a little time to think about that. Alright times up. That’s right you guessed it. The number one request most parents make of their kids while home alone is to NOT BURN THE HOUSE DOWN!

Well take a guess about what I came home to today. No the house was not burnt down, but the trashcan, a big section of the carpet, and the side of the cabinet were the trashcan sits was burnt to a crisp. If you can imagine the smell of burnt trash and plastic you’ll start to understand what we are still dealing with right now. Almost everything in the house is covered in a thin coating of smoke and fire extinguisher dust.

Now here is where the mystery starts. We are pretty sure of who started the fire, because he is the same person that put it out with the fire extinguisher from under the sink. What is puzzling is the story he came up with to explain the unfortunate incident.

He claims that he was cooking Ramen Noodles when they boiled over, caught the store on fire, and he tried to put it out by pouring it into the trashcan. Sounds possible until you start to examine the evidence. First the pan that he cooked it in mysteriously returned itself completely without any burn marks to the cupboard where it belongs. Second the stove shows no signs of any fire damage or the so called boil over that caused the mysteriously absent stove fire. Thirdly, all the ash trays in the house magically have been emptied and there were cigarette ashes on the floor next to the burnt section of carpet where the trash can used to reside.

If I was Encyclopedia Brown—and when I was younger I thought I was—I would come to the conclusion that the fire was started by throwing lit cigarettes or something that had been set on fire (like paper) into the trashcan. The most likely scenario is that my son was smoking a cigarette, someone knocked at the door, he put the cigarette out in the ashtray, poured the ashtray into the trashcan to hide the evidence, answered the door, and then the trashcan caught on fire. For some reason I’m just not buying the Ramen Noodle fire.

What sounds more likely, Ramen Noodle fire or lit cigarettes dumped into the trashcan? This is definitely a mystery worthy of Encyclopedia Brown. I’ll have pictures of the damage tomorrow.

Update: Here are two pictures of the damage after we cleaned up.

The first picture shows just how close the fire was to the couch, my laptop, and my copy of Glenn Reynolds book An Army of Davids. Maybe it was Glenn's book that started the fire!

At least my son wasn't hurt and stayed calm enough to put the fire out with the fire extinguisher. He could have just ran out of the house and watched while the entire apartment building went up in flames. He might make a great fire fighter some day, as long as he is putting out fires that he didn't start.

Update #2: I wrote a song about the fire, wanna hear it? Here it go!

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