**I’ll preface this by saying that everyone is physically okay, and there was no damage to the house.**
Saturday started out innocently enough. I’d marked on my calendar that it was the local “Shred-a-thon,” which is where you can bring up to three bags of shreddable items to be shredded for free by the Police Department.
When I worked from home, I had massive amounts of confidential documents to shred. When they were a month old, they were to be destroyed. On a weekly basis, I shredded a pile. I did this every week. Along with that, I’d shred our own personal things.
When I quit my job, I didn’t have as much to shred, and I fell off the shredding wagon. Things would pile up, and I’d tackle them in a weekend and then repeat the next month.
Because the Shred-a-thon was coming up, I hadn’t shredded things in a while. I had one bag of things to take, and it wasn’t even a very big bag.
Saturday rolls around and my husband lets me sleep in. I jolt awake, look at the clock and bolt out of bed. I jump in the shower. I want to make it by the deadline!
As I finish my shower, I run into my office, and there are Daddy and Claire, shredding the documents. They’d tried to surprise me by having all of them done so I wouldn’t have to go! How sweet of them!
I go back to the bedroom to get ready, and that’s when I hear a large, terrible, crashing noise. I had no idea what had happened. My first thought was that something large had fallen over in my office, even though that’s not physically possible, since we have things tethered to the walls. To be honest, it sounded like an explosion, but I know that’s not possible either.
I run to the office. As I get to the door, I see Claire running toward me, out of the smoke filled room. There are bits of shredded papers wafting through the air, and they’re on fire! My husband is standing in a cloud of smoke, trying to put out the flames in the paper shredder bin. I grab Claire and pull her out of the room. I run back, ready to run to the garage for the fire extinguisher, as I scream to him to see if he’s been hurt.
He says he’s okay, and in a flash, he’s outside with the shredder. He yells to me that he got the fire out.
Would I have had time to get down two flights of stairs to get to the garage and back up with the fire extinguisher had this been a more massive fire? Maybe, but probably not. Do we have a fire extinguisher under the kitchen sink LIKE WE’VE MEANT TO HAVE FOR EIGHT YEARS? Uh, no.
Guess what’s on our To Do List now?
After he has the paper shredder outside smoldering on the flagstone patio, away from the house and any other combustible materials, he comes back in. I do a medical evaluation. A large portion of hair has been singed off his right arm, and his baja sleeve has been melted. He runs his hand under cold water while I get the aloe.
I do another inspection of my office to be doubly-sure that no burning pieces are left anywhere, and I open the windows and close the door in hopes of airing it out.
Claire had been sitting right next to the shredder when the explosion happened. The force of the blast and the excitement it caused made her jump off the chair and land across the room. She’s physically okay, and she hasn’t had any nightmares yet. She did, however, spend the rest of Saturday asking if other things will blow up.
We are so lucky. Daddy wasn’t severely hurt. His hands never blistered, and he’ll live without arm-hair. Claire wasn’t injured, even though she was sitting right next to the blast. The explosion didn’t catch anything else on fire.
So, what happened?
Well, we aren’t exactly sure, but these are the turn of events as we know them. The shredder isn’t a new shredder. It has been known to get hot, but it has a safety turn-off. When it’s too hot, it turns itself off, immediately, and usually in the middle of a paper. It’s an annoying feature, and one we take for granted, but it’s always worked in the past. My husband finally remembered to lubricate the mechanism. It’s needed it for a while, and he’d done that earlier in the shredding session. There’s always a lot of paper-dust created when we shred documents. This isn’t abnormal, but goes into the equation.
For whatever reason, something sparked and it caught the paper-dust on fire, which then exploded. Paper-dust burns incredibly fast, which is good and bad. It’s good in that it was over quickly, and bad in that it happened without notice and with an amazing amount of force.
Unfortunately, this happened just as my husband was feeding a paper into the machine, which put his hand and arm a little too close for comfort.
For the record, shredders have always made me nervous, but I always thought the danger lurked in being sucked in by your tie or your hair or a necklace. It never occurred to me that the paper dust could explode, but it makes perfect sense.
So, after 8+ years in this house, we’ve finally had our first explosion. It’s nice to finally check that off the list so that we can get on to more calming matters. October is also Fire Safety Month, so once again, Irony tries to step up and make us laugh as the smoke clears.
We can laugh about this now. We can joke about the fact that because I announced this on Twitter, I almost ended up on the local news station. We can joke about the fact that singed arm-hair isn’t very exciting, but had he lost his eyebrows, it may be more newsworthy.
I laugh about it now, because if I think too hard about it, I’ll start shaking again. I laugh about it now, because if I think about it too hard, the tears will come to my eyes again.
It’s amazing how tiny that line between tragedy and comedy is, and we are so lucky.
So, I’m in the market for a new paper-shredder. You’ll know when I get one, because you’ll hear me using it. I’ll be the one out in the middle of my driveway with that thing plugged into an extension cord. I’ll be the one holding the fire extinguisher.