I was going to write about the effects of a few inches of snow in Virginia (power outage, cars grounded, no water, etc), in combination with busy season debacle of the year (the discovery of hundreds of orders throughout the busy season hiding in the database). I even had cute little pictures of things with snow on them. Then, the unthinkable happened: the steel building burned.
People were milling around Heartwood eating dinner when Fox ran in, reeking of burnt plastic. “Call 911, the steel building’s on fire.” Mutters of disbelief and questions about the severity of the fire were left unanswered. She continued, “I tried to walk in to see how bad it was, but I couldn’t see past the black smoke.”
I ran upstairs searching for the phone. I related the details to the dispatcher, who informed me that trucks had been notified. I stepped outside and observed a black cloud of noxious fumes filling the sky. My gaze turned to the steel building, where smoke was pouring out of both sides. Within minutes, flames were leaping out of each end. Bibi observed that the shape of the Quonset hut acts as a very efficient chimney, ushering air in one end and out the other. The resulting sound was a truly horrifying rush of air, the flames tearing through the contents of the building, punctuated by explosions. I imagined all the tiny motors and gas tanks of all the machinery we’ve accumulated over 20 years bursting like popcorn. We waited anxiously for a few larger explosions to come – namely the four oxyacetylene tanks and the air compressor. Drawn by the horror and magnitude of the fire, many of us stood within sight, sometimes ambling closer till we were reminded that the tanks hadn’t blown yet, and that when they did they could do so with enough force to knock down several brick walls.
Within 15 minutes, the entire side and top of the building glowed orange, with the fury of the flames visible through holes where fasteners had been. Finally the fire department showed up, with two fire trucks and two other fire department vehicles. Firemen with full gas masks and oxygen tanks begun unrolling their hose. Soon, they started spraying the firey opening on the West side. Streams of water vaporized in the pit of fire, a mere fly on the back of a behemoth.
Questions of whether or not we had insurance of any sort were answered – negatory. We turned to one another, recounting the things of value going up in smoke – all of our 2013 catalogs, 6 new energy-star freezers, some full of seeds, some full of food, lots of other seed in storage, our community closet (aka commie clothes), our prized wood shop, complete with a planer, band saw, saw-stop table saw, compound miter saw, drill presses, and lathe, the seed curing room, our weight room, the autobay, all of our appliances and extra furniture, and possibly our new station wagon, which we couldn’t move in time.
For those of you who are familiar with the steel building, or who can infer from the name of it, the steel building was the last thing we were worried about losing to fire. In fact, we were allowed to build our fledgling seed office closer to it than code usually calls for due to the lack of risk of fire.