Posted by: Brenda Kula | January 14, 2008

The Weekend Of The Gas Leak

Saturday evening we were about to sit down to watch a Netflix movie. The doorbell rings. I’m in my night gown and robe. My husband is in the shower. The stranger says he is from Center Point Energy, the gas company, and needs to get inside to check our furnace. He has a company label stitched on his shirt, but I am wary. He says a man walking his dog detected the smell of gas coming from our house, and called in to alert them.

I go tell my husband, who is busy soaping up in the steaming bathroom. I return to the door and ask him through the tiny front door window for some ID. He whips out his drivers license. Well… I tell him he will have to wait until my husband can come to the door. He stands in the cold dutifully. I wander around the house feeling useless and afraid, a yapping dog lodged underneath each arm.

Finally my husband comes to the door, clad in his black silk pajamas. The man is allowed entrance and inspects our furnace, then tells us the gas must be shut down. Now. There is a leak. Call an emergency serviceman. Now. There goes our heat on this cold winter night.

He leaves, and quickly I flip through the Yellow Pages. I know of only one company that keeps weekend hours, and I’ve used them before. The phone is busy. Then busy some more.

What kind of crazy luck is this? We signed papers to buy the house less than ten days earlier, though we’ve leased it for almost three years. This is oddly reminiscent of another winter night in Oklahoma eight years earlier. The movers were so involved with their visiting girlfriends that they barely got our furniture off the truck before dusk. People were coming home from work and trying to get their cars into the cul-de-sac. Fed up, I told them to just put the boxes in the garage and leave.

Two nights later, there is an electrical fire. A previous owner had done a little do-it-yourself electrical job installing a light over the kitchen sink. I run out into the November night with five pets. Three dogs and two cats. I whisk them into my SUV, then drive down the street and park, waiting for my husband. But he has decided he will stay with the house. One of those man things. I watch with pounding heart as the fire truck comes roaring into the quiet neighborhood. They rush inside and ask my husband where the fuse box is located. We don’t know. We’ve just moved in. Fire, unfortunately, does not cease licking its flames of destruction while you figure things out. The fuse box is of course in the crowded garage filled with boxes and barely any walking space. They plunge in. The dirty hoses come twining throughout our clean house and sprays water at the source of our panic. Once it is out, they tell us we will not have any heat for the night. We will have to wait for an electrician to come. We all stare up at the gaping hole that was literally the roof over our heads just hours before. 

Soot is everywhere. It snows. We wait for the insurance, the estimates, to fix the damage and restore our home. The remodel takes ages. I am now terrified of having an electrical fire. Just so everyone knows, if you have your smoke alarm hooked into your electrical system, make sure you have a battery backup. Or better yet, other battery-operated smoke alarms strategically placed throughout your home.

So here we are, eight years later, new homeowners once again. The serviceman tells us the entire furnace will have to be replaced. Tomorrow. For tonight, no heat. Again.

On Sunday. I decide that the Good Samaritan deserves a personal thank you. But I don’t know who he is. I call a local television station. A reporter and cameraman are here within the hour. The men go about replacing our furnace. I am interviewed sitting in my courtyard gazebo with my two dogs sitting on either side of me. Clyde the cat socially swishes his long full tail around our legs as the camera rolls. I appeal to the man walking his dog to please contact me. He likely saved all our lives. They told us someone at some point had taken the safety valve off our furnace. The one that shuts off the gas when the fire is extinguished. Could have been very bad news for us. Aside from the nearly $3200 we paid to replace the furnace, at least we did not pay with our lives.

We locate the Good Samaritan, but he says he wishes to remain anonymous to the public. I talk to him via phone. I now vaguely recall him walking his dog back when my dear little Pepper was still alive, and I walked him down the same street. But that was nearly two years ago. He could have moved for all I knew.

We are a segment of the ten o’clock news. I inform everyone watching that they should purchase carbon monoxide detectors and get their furnace checked annually. Even though I had many smoke detectors (with batteries) installed in my home, I had yet to put up a carbon monoxide detector. I kept thinking, one day I’ll just pick one of those up. Now, of course, I will.

I had been feeling sick for days. We don’t know if it was due to the mold underneath the cabinets in the kitchen that was torn asunder today for the remodel, or the effects of what was seeping from the gas furnace. Perhaps a combination of the two. I had run my Meals On Wheels route Friday with itchy swollen eyes.

It is now Monday evening and the workmen doing the kitchen remodel have all gone home for the day. The carpenter will bring his cabinets tomorrow. There is a fresh coat of bright paint coating the walls. The mold is history. I am deeply thankful they painted today and not a day before. When poisonous gas seeped from my furnace and alerted a concerned bystander. And because he took the time to care, we are all now safe. I shudder to think what might have happened otherwise. 




  1. WoW! That sounds like a very scary night! I’m glad to heat that things worked out.

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