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September 8, 2015

Burlington Fire Thoughts

Sept 8, 2015

Last Night I woke around 2:00 am and jumped up to the smell of smoke. It wasn’t that wonderful smell of a backyard BBQ or even the smell of a leaves burning – but the overwhelming wood smell that engulfs you and sticks to you like wet pants, reminding me of those huge bonfires from Boy Scout days. This was the heavy smell of smoke that gets in your lungs, your clothes even your hair. At first I lay there in my bed for a second, wondering what was happening and if i was  dreaming , then my 15 year old son awoke and ran into our bedroom asking me “Dad do you smell smoke ? ”  I replied Luke– “the first day of school is tomorrow, what are you doing up”, He replied “Dad I smell smoke , it woke me”  ” I know” I replied, now we’re both running down stairs to check out the house, I see lights on in the basement, My son Matt must have just come home from a night out , and was doing wash, so I yell down to him ” Yo Matt what’s going on ?” ” Nothing”, he replies, “You smell Smoke?”,  ” Yea ” he says,   We go outside, the three of us looking around, it was quiet, a slight haze seemed to be falling around us, the smell of smoke— heavy.

I said ” that’s no backyard fire, or house fire, it’s something more”. We’re standing there looking around, so I tell the boys, “I’m going to drive around, and check it out, you guys get back in bed ” —but the boys have a different idea, ” Can I come?”  Luke replies— “Ok Grab the car Keys”- He sprints to the door and out in a flash, “Don’t slam it, I yell out ” and now Matt is in the passenger front seat yelling “shot gun”… I start the car and drive down the block, it’s quiet almost an  eerie calm, warm still and no cars on the street, not that anyone would expect traffic at 2:00 am in middle class suburbia, but its dead, the only thing happening, a bar crowd standing in the parking lot of the Shore House Bar/restaurant on route 88, folks catching the last night of summer drinking—“Time for last call for alcohol I say out loud”, what Dad, replies Luke oblivious to my reference to a song by George Thorogood and The Destoyers  …

We didn’t hear any fire alarms, so we drove around, looking for any signs of a local fire, the smoke still hazy in the air, the smell heavy with pine and oak. As I turned the corner of the next street, I kept thinking about one of our clients whose home burned down right here in Point Pleasant last winter… The smell of smoke was different. Last year one of Our clients lost his rental home in a fire, that house had more than a wood smell, he had a boat and a car that were also destroyed and the smell was so different. The house was right down the block from my office and I was blocked from driving by fire engines, so I pulled in the parking lot of another client, a Pizza Parlor, said hello to the owner, grabbed a slice, and watched the fire across the street,  the flames engulfing the old pre-war ranch while the local Volunteer Fire department got to practice their skills. A crowd gathered and cheered on the volunteers as the roof buckled and the fire hoses pounded the flames. That was a sad night for my customer who had property insurance for his building, but didn’t  have his boat which was parked on the side of the burning home, insured. We discussed it many times, but he never managed to get the 28 foot boat in the water and felt that given his current situation, the insurance was a waste of money so he said .. So, No Boat insurance or comprehensive insurance on his car and that was gone too.  Lucky for him, it was a rental home, the tenant hadn’t moved in and no one was hurt. But the customer took about an $85,000 loss that was preventable had he been a bit more logical about Insurance.

 Needless to say our next conversation about insurance was a bit more open. . .

So, those were my thoughts as I steered the car up and down a few blocks at 2:00 am looking for any smokey reasons. Up and down the streets around our house, until I saw a police car. Maybe he knew something, so I followed him, my sons saying ” Dad leave the police alone”. The police car pulled over in the High School parking lot and I pulled along his car.  “Good evening Officer, is there a fire? ” I asked,  ” No” replied the officer as he looked up from his laptop and took the hand mike away from his mouth. He offered an  explanation saying what caused the smokey issue. The current drought had effected the east coast and a fire had started Sunday in the Pine Lands State Forest about 30 miles south of Point Pleasant in Burlington County NJ. Weird atmospheric conditions with cold air holding down the heavy smoke, had caused the smoke to hug the ground and many others like us were calling Police Headquarters just like we did. My son Matt pulled out his smart phone and promptly checked the internet and sure enough there were several stories about the southern fire and how it was effecting the Tri-state area. Some folks were feeling the effects of the 1000 Acre fire as far as New York City, Long Island and Pennsylvania getting a smokey taste of the drought that has been occurring on the west coast.

I was relived to hear that no one was hurt or any other properties damaged but I was concerned about the possible consequences of a prolonged drought. So far no homes or business were damaged, but a forest fire could afflict some serious damage to many local communities. Thus if your reading this, now may be a opportune time to re-evaluate your own Home Insurance and Property coverage. The reader is advised that circumstance way outside of your control can effect you, so take a minute and look at your property Insurance policies and make sure you have the right coverage and its up to date. Give I & E Insurance Agency a call at 732-295-5584.
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