Keith Taylor: Through the fire

March 01, 2024

Alternative heating can be dangerous, especially when it comes to combustible fuel sources.

During the first winter blast of the season earlier this month, a couple purchased Kerosene from a local gas station not knowing what they had purchased was likely contaminated, expecting the fuel to provide a supply of heat needed during s cold surge that brought below zero temperatures to the region.

The kerosene heater caught fire and damaged the home on Shortline Pike. The unfortunate incident ignited memories of a similar incident that occurred in our home nearly 40 years ago. A cold front made its way through the state in the late spring of 1984 and Dad opted to use the Kerosene heater as opposed to the wood stove.

That evening, I pumped Kerosene into the heater and used a hose was used to pump gas from the gas tank to the lawn mower.

Later that evening as we were all in bed, Mom heard a small explosion and awoke and discovered the Kerosene heater was in flames, with heat so intense it melted her figurines off the wall. She got my sister and I out of the house and called the Kirksville Volunteer Fire Department.

She took us up the hill to “aunt” Molly King’s house where she prayed and comforted my sister and I, assuring us that everything was going to be OK. I kept thinking the entire time that our house was going to burn to the ground and losing all of my personal things, such as magazines, electronics, baseball cards and everything a 14-year-old collected at the time.

Awakened from a deep sleep, my sister and I were startled and still trying to figure out whether or not what we were experiencing was a dream or reality. Turns out, it was real, very real.

Aunt Molly prayed and prayed and mom came back to get us and informed us the fire was out and our house was still standing. We had a water house in the back of the house that provided low water pressure but provided enough water for Dad to put the fire out. Later, Dad said he prayed a simple prayer of “O Lord Help Me” in the midst of adversity and the fire went out instantly.

Our living room area suffered water and heat damage and required some remodeling. Thankfully, we didn’t lose our home and most of our material things were salvaged.

Although the fire could have been avoided if the Kerosene had not been mixed with gasoline, alternative heating requires paying close attention to directions supplied by manufacturer of alternative heaters.

To this day, I have been terrified of Kerosene heaters. Rhonda and I have one as a backup, but we haven’t and won’t use it unless it’s an absolute emergency.

Take it from someone who has been through the fire. Always take extra precautions when it comes to alternative heating.

phil malicote