Archive for the ‘Fire’ Category

Washington Elementary House Walk

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Our grade school is hosting its annual house walk. Proceeds go to the library, and mean that there will be no selling of cookie dough or the like for us although the Little One was a top seller of Girl Scout cookies in her Daisy troop this year – she really enjoyed it.

We are still not ready to be on it unless somebody wants to tour a house with no windows or indoor plumbing or lights.* We do have rough-in plumbing and more than a mile of wiring installed.

Like last year, we’re hosting a house – the Hunts’ house, which I think of as the Januarys’** new house (since they bought it when they moved out of our house in about 1960). We haven’t been inside, but we’ve been in their garden when it was on a garden tour last spring. It is very French (as you might expect, since they own French Metro Antiques), with a brick wall around it, and has two beautiful Montmorency cherries. The cherries are probably what started me thinking about permaculture/sustainable agriculture/joys of having fresh fruit in your own yard.

Little One and Montmorency Cherry Tree June 2008 Montmorency Cherries French Hand Pump Under the Cherry Tree   The brochure has photos of this year’s houses, and here’s the list:

  • Jack and Anne Butt 526 E. Lafayette
  • U of A Chancellor Dave and Jane Gearhart 523 North Razorback
  • Terry and Renee Hunt 432 North Washington
  • John and Jennifer Lewis 137 S. Kestrel
  • Philip and Jennifer Maynard 315 N. Washington
  • Raymond Niblock 601 North Highland
  • Jan and Stacey Sturner 1 West Mount Nord
  • Reception and Refreshments at French Metro Antiques 200 West Dickson

This is a great collection of houses, both old (the Hunts’ house is pre-Civil War) and new (the Chancellor’s house is about a year old), for a great cause, so buy a ticket and take a tour. Tickets are available at French Metro Antiques, or at any of the houses the day of the tour.

*Strangely, we do seem to give a lot of tours of our house. The neighborhood seems to believe that a house with no plumbing, little electricity, and fewer and fewer windows every day is an improvement over the five-flat of college students that it was. (We stopped by the house yesterday morning, and three four windows in the living room were gone. I thought we weren’t doing those windows until we moved in, but apparently the siding needs to be replaced there, too. Don says the bright side is that we will only have to rebuild three or four windows after we move in. I guess that’s true. I’ll feel better after he’s put back one of the 87 gazillion we’ve taken out and rebuilt. I think he will, too.)

**Tom January stopped by our house last week while Don was there. He remembers watching the big house fire from Washington, and not being able to go home. He said his parents bought the house from two sisters, presumably the Brown sisters. Don thought he was pleased with how the house was going. (He didn’t think to ask whether he had any pictures of the house.) I think he’s going to stop by with his wife soon. I’d enjoy meeting him.

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Out of money, so maybe we’ll post more often…

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Who am I kidding? We’ve been out of money the better part of a month, and I haven’t posted. Maybe just posting tonight will get me started again.

Tonight, Don is on his way home from returning his mom to Chicago after we borrowed her for a couple of weeks, and the Little One drew her own bath and is splashing around so I’m writing. (He was there on Election Night, but didn’t go to the City.) We took her to see various sights, from War Eagle and Applegate craft fairs (where the Little One bought more than we did) to Terra Studios to the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market to Little Rock (zoo, art museum, Flying Fish, the Arkansas River from both North Little Rock and Little Rock sides, a couple of estate sales,* and the Riverfront Park). I don’t think she’s going to move here, but we had a good time and good weather.


Although we may expand on our past house doings later, in sum, we have:

  • a new foundation,
  • a new roof (with reflective sheathing),
  • new exterior walls on the back third of the house,
  • most of the framing done (including a lot of new old walls due to the extent of the fire),
  • missing windows on the front of the house,
  • no plumbing (unless you count the Potty House** out front),
  • a storm shelter,
  • one set of outlets,
  • lots of extension cords,
  • a new electric service,
  • three fewer trees, or maybe four,
  • fewer Japanese honeysuckles (invasive creatures),
  • new kitchen subfloor,
  • a design for the front yard (middle only; I can’t cope with planning the woodland sides of the front yard)
  • lots of estimates for everything that’s left.

We’ve been working with two banks to see about getting a construction loan. (Yes, we waited until the market tanked to run out of money.) The most recent issue has been that we started work without them. I think they wanted to get their construction loan recorded ahead of any sub-contractors, but then the loan would have been bigger since they want it to be finished in 9-12 months, no matter how much work lies ahead. I think one of the banks has found a title company willing to insure over the subs, so we’ll probably be back in the money one way or another. Once we have the money, we’ll do plumbing. Otherwise, Don can always rebuild windows.

*I bought some more half-size cupcake pans so I can make a full recipe of yellow cake cupcakes*** in the tiny pans so I don’t have to eat a full cupcake when I want to sample other desserts, too. Also, a big white round casserole (like my ramekins, only big) and a liquid tablespoon measuring cup, and an Ozark Do-Nothing for the Little One. I didn’t buy two club chairs that I quite liked. We took the Honda to Little Rock, and they couldn’t possibly have fit, and Don and his mom were leaving the next day for Chicago, so those will be the chairs that got away.

** The Potty House is serviced weekly, and the service apparently includes setting it upright when it gets tipped over as an early Halloween trick.

*** Here’s what the cupcakes looked like in mid-October. Our neighbor burned a bunch of our brush, we grilled hotdogs and marshmallows, and I brought cupcakes for Don’s birthday. I made another batch for my office’s birthday later in the month, and I made some for the Little One’s birthday party. I’m looking forward to having enough little pans.


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Apartment 3 Bathroom: Another Fire

Friday, February 15th, 2008

I was documenting Apartment 3 before we got too far into demolition last Sunday. (I guess I don’t want my memories of the house in its present state to fade or something.) Through my viewfinder, I saw a blackened spot on the door.

Apt 3 Bathroom Door Wall

I get closer. Yep, that’s charcoal all right. I recognize it from the fire that went up through the middle of the house sometime in the 1950s.

Scorched Door Close Up

I call out to Don, “Hey, did you know the fire got here?”

He answers, “Different fire. Look at the gas heater.”

So, I look.

Apt 3 Bathroom Gas Heater (from inside the shower)

He says, “Push the door open.”

So I push.

Door plus Heater Look: the door fits right around the heater. Can’t see it? Don helpfully pointed out that a view perpendicular to the door would help.

A Perfect Match See? The door just wraps around the heater. Another fire the house escaped without falling down.

The Little One has asked that we fix this before she moves in. There’s enough wrong with the house that I’m not positive we can promise, but we can try.

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Serious Charring

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

I learned about arson under the common law again last winter when I studied for the Arkansas bar exam. Arson required “the malicious and willful burning of the house of another.” (Lots of picky bar exam questions can come from that.) Burning meant an actual ignition of the structure. In other words, charring* was required, not mere scorching. I don’t yet know the source of the fire, but we have serious charring in our house.

Don took out the ceiling in the back room in Apartment 2 on Monday and Tuesday. POs had removed all the plaster from the lath in the ceiling and put in ceiling tiles in about 1997. (How can I date it so precisely? The ceiling tiles were date-stamped.) The fire we had heard about (sometime in the 1950s) reached back there so the addition pre-dates the fire. We can see ceiling joists sistered to the scorched ones. And not a lick of insulation. (The joists you can’t see clearly are the scorched ones. Look at the wall between the back room and the living room. Very scorched.)

Back room ceiling during demolition 1997 Ceiling Tiles Back room charring

He’s also removed the ceiling tiles in the living room, most of the subfloor tongue-and-groove planks** that were used as furring strips for the ceiling tiles, and a lot of the plaster and lath. (Demolition is complicated by having the salvaged flooring and tub in the living room.) The ceiling plaster looked pretty bad in the living room, too, but the fire doesn’t seem to have made its way into the living room. The wall between the back room and the living room is to the right in this picture.

Living room ceiling

He stripped a bit of trim around a window and baseboard in the living room, and stair railing, newel post, and stair treads in the foyer. Looks like pine everywhere, doesn’t it? Shucks. We were hoping for a little oak.

Stair tread Silent paint remover Newel postRailing

Our neighbor’s dumpster left early Monday morning and we are struggling with whether to get one before Christmas. If we do, it will be an invitation to the world to fill it up with Christmas debris. If we don’t, we will be handling our house debris at least twice — doubling our work. Wonder if we could fill one before Christmas, and order a second one in January after the Christmas rush?

Debris Back room debris

[Pause to call Don]

That’s what we will do. Dumpster comes Thursday. If we get close to Christmas Eve, and it still isn’t full, then we’ll think about hiring out some demolition help.

*The word char dates to 1679, and is a back formation of the word charcoal (1340), which (rougly) means turning to coal. Charring rhymes with barring, jarring, marring, scarring, sparring, starring, and tarring so …

  • The uncovered joists showed charring,
  • which was jarring
  • to me. Sistered joists marring
  • my honeymoon vision, scarring
  • forever with their charcoal tarring.

Not bad for 60 seconds. Can you use the other words: barring, sparring, and starring?

**The POs who converted the house into a five-flat owned a flooring company. I assume these were seconds. They are brittle and impossible to denail.

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