During a recent series of fire extinguisher training classes I was conducting, I recalled an incident from about 10 years ago that I shared with my class. This story perfectly demonstrated the simplicity of operating a fire extinguisher.
There was this real bratty kid named Rebecca that lived down the street. She was a feisty little know it all 12-year old, with, as you may imagine, very few friends. It was hard to imagine considering her diminutive size, but this tiny little punk had a real mean, bully streak in her.
My daughters Ashley and Stephanie were 7 and 11 at the time, and enjoying the early days of their summer break. One of their favorite activities was sidewalk chalk artwork. On this particular sunny afternoon, the two of them were in front of the house toiling away at their most recent Technicolor masterpieces of hearts, rainbows and stars when Rebecca the Wrecker paid them a visit.
It seems that her parents, clearly oblivious to their offspring’s complete lack of respect of others, purchased her the latest version of the “Super-soaker” water pistol and sent her out to play. If real life were like TV, my daughters would have heard the doomsday music that usually accompanies the villain’s prowling. Sadly, real life has no soundtrack. Most of the other kids on the block spotted her in time and decided a bike ride around the block was their best defense. My girls were caught off-guard; unarmed and defenseless against the Rebecca’s ambush. The assault was over fairly quickly, and the sneak attack provoked some shrieking and dodging skills (that they sure didn’t get from me), but still left them both peppered with streaks of water before Rebecca’s “clip” ran dry and she needed to retreat to reload at her dad’s garden spigot.
The Hostetter girls had lost the battle, and their water wounds were extensive. Even the precious sidewalk art received some damage in the unprovoked attack. I had caught a glimpse of the battle and anticipated that my girls would be inside in the next few minutes. I was wrong. I peered outside about 5 minutes later and there they were, happily drawing on the sidewalk again.
That’s when I noticed the two pressurized water extinguishers strategically positioned in the driveway by the side of my truck. My excitement mounted when I realized what they had up their sleeve. Part of me was upset that they retrieved the fire extinguishers from my garage where I stored all my training aides without seeking permission, but part of me was thrilled at their spirit and pride. I relocated to the second floor window with a glass of iced tea and waited to see history unfold before me. Before long, here came the brat, boldly strolling up the sidewalk with her weapon reloaded and ready for the second wave of assault. I knew they had a plan. I could see them watching Rebecca out of the corner of their eye and whispering to each other quietly. They acted as if they didn’t see the intruder and calmly wandered over to the driveway and assumed their positions, one at the front tire, one at the back tire. I shook with anticipation as I watched them each break the seal and pull the pin on their extinguishers. Seconds seemed like hours. They waited patiently while Rebecca cautiously crept closer.
Finally, they unleashed a wave of retaliation never before witnessed on Whitfield Blvd. With pinpoint accuracy and synchronized precision they unloaded those cans on their intruder; one around the front of my truck, one around the back of my truck. Poor little Rebecca never knew what hit her. Her feeble attempt to fight back with her dribbling stream was no match for the tandem attack from my little firefighters and their 30 foot aquatic range. She dropped her squirt gun and started running home. Without hesitation, my girls took off after her, draining every last wheeze of liquid on the back of her obnoxious curly head of hair as she screamed and cried her way home. Even Mrs. Murray from across the street was laughing at the spectacle, as she saw the entire event unfold from her Adirondack rocker on her front porch.
Now I wasn’t sure what to do. I thought about taking them for ice cream to celebrate their bravery and acknowledge them for standing up for themselves, but the story didn’t end there…
Although I expected them to come running into the house pumped with adrenaline, the house remained eerily quiet (never a good sign when you have kids). Peering out the window, I saw lots of buzzing activity from my two little warriors. In the garage, into the shed, back to the garage…then silence… I had to investigate! Cracking open the door to the garage, I could hear what sounded like Santa’s elves; busy, focused, tapping, clanking of tools, whispered directions…what were they up to?
Suddenly, the back door opened up and in bounced Stephanie. She wanted to know if they could get the hose bib turned on so they could use the hose. A leaky valve prompted me to shut off the feed to the garage faucet a few months ago. I made a mental note to myself to fix the valve and asked, “Why do you need the hose?” I must admit, I felt a little guilty deceiving my little girl like that; but I knew they were planning for the next wave of Rebecca Brattypants, and I did not want them to know I saw them with my extinguishers. “We want to wash up the mess from our chalk!” her little angelic face never cracking from the outright fiberoni she was feeding me. I played along and turned on the water feed to the garage.
It was probably 30 minutes later, when the two of them strolled in, as innocent looking as new born babies. Not a word was spoken of the confrontation that had taken place out front. Perhaps they were afraid I would be mad that they “fought back”. Maybe they were afraid they would be angry that they tampered with my extinguishers. I let them stew over what they had done, and waited for the confession to gurgle out, but it never did. I soon found out why.
I went into the garage to check on the extinguishers they had used, knowing that I would find that they had been tampering with them. That’s when I was stunned with what I saw. Both extinguishers had been refilled and were back in place on the shelf in the garage. It took some careful investigation work to realize that they used a milk jug from the recycling can to carefully measure 2 ½ gallons of water to fill them, and the bike pump under the work bench had fresh wet handprints in the dust that covered everything else on the shelf. They weighed exactly what a full PW should weigh and the pressure gauges were dead on. The pins were back in place, and they even attempted to reattach the tamper seals! The electrical tape was the giveaway.
Needless to say, I was a proud poppa. Not only could they operate a fire extinguisher with the swift accuracy of a seasoned firefighter, they knew (or somehow figured out) how to restore them to service condition. I had a tear of pride in my eye as I dug out two new seals and completed their field service work. I never spoke of the incident with them, and they never fessed up to me. I looked up the statute of limitations on a crime like this, and it is 10 years. I figure they have about 5 more weeks to keep their secret before there is nothing I can do about it. I suppose I will finally find out if they ever read my blog.