I’m still combing crispies out of my hair and beard, as it appears my head was a bit closer to the fireball than it seemed at the time. At the time, I was rather too busy to worry about the condition of my facial hair.
I put a new filter on my heater yesterday morning. There wasn’t anything obviously wrong with the old filter, but it had gone through two winters. I had a new filter, so it seemed reasonable to replace it. That was basically my last reasonable heater-related action for the entire day.
I’d say I don’t know what I was thinking, but the undeniable truth is that I wasn’t thinking at all. And when dealing with flammable gases one must always think. It almost cost me my trailer.
I noticed at the time that the new filter did not screw on to the fitting right. Not cross-threaded, but once screwed all the way on it wouldn’t tighten. I resolved that I must correct that before installing the heater, but it was early in the morning, I was really just taking pictures for a TIS post, and didn’t get around to actually re-installing the heater until almost sunset. By then I’d forgotten all about the filter threads.
Now, that’s just Joel being Joel – I don’t often remember by lunch what I had for breakfast. The really unforgivable thing was that, as I was working the igniter to get the air out of the hose, I SMELLED PROPANE.
NEVER, NEVER DO FIRE-RELATED THINGS WHEN YOU SMELL PROPANE. I know this, but apparently I didn’t know it as far down in my bones as I should have. Bet I do now, boy.
The pilot lit, and I turned on the first burner. It didn’t look right – there should be no actual flames. I just thought “That doesn’t look ri…” and was actually reaching for the valve to turn it off when the cloud of propane in which I was standing ignited.
The next few minutes were somewhat busy. I ran outside, chasing the dogs and cat in front of me, turned off the gas at the bottle, and ran back inside to fight fire, if any. There was. There were in fact two secondary fires in addition to the residual propane still burning from inside the heater casing. The heater was quickly dealt with – and miraculously undamaged – but I saw flickering light coming from under the oven. I tore open the access door, grabbed a dish towel and put out the cheerily-burning linoleum. I stopped my lurid swearing long enough to wonder what that rustling sound was – it sounded a lot like fire, but I couldn’t see any additional fire. I opened the bathroom door – apparently that propane cloud had been impressive – and found an old pair of pants I’d left draped over the tub, burning enthusiastically. I don’t know what those pants were made of, but I’m sure glad I wasn’t wearing them at the time. I grabbed them, ran to the door, and pitched them out onto the dirt. Where they burned completely.
It took longer to settle myself down than it did to clear the trailer of smoke. I’ll take it as a learning experience that shouldn’t have been necessary, but they say nothing concentrates the mind quite so well as being shot at and missed. The threads on the new filter are indeed messed up, right out of the box. The old filter seals just fine. I’m going to test the whole thing – extensively – outdoors before moving it back indoors. Even then it’ll be a while before I’m comfortable around it again. Even though the whole misadventure was my fault and not the heater’s.