I had just driven home for lunch, when Jan looked out the kitchen window and commented, “Smoke is coming out of Sam’s hood.” Sam was our 1960 Ford Falcon, and the year was 1976. I had just parked Sam in the driveway behind our house.
I grabbed the multi-purpose fire extinguisher and headed for Sam. The likely embarrassment of calling the fire department for a fire in my own backyard, when I was a volunteer firefighter, kept me from making the wise decision, which would have been to call the fire department. Sure enough, smoke was pouring out when I popped the hood, and I took the risk to do it all myself, and I did succeed in putting out the fire before it did a lot of damage or spread to the nearby dry field of grass.
I was lucky. No burns on me, no explosions, no fire spreading across the field and threatening our neighbors’ houses or the farmer’s livelihood behind us. It could have been much worse, and it probably should have been, to teach me a lesson. Sam was a leaky old car that left its mark on many a clean parking pad. She had covered a lot of miles, survived a windstorm that blew a camper off a truck in front of us on the Mackinaw Straits bridge, endured mistreatment at the hands of a street gang on Chicago’s south side, and, in spite of her plain habit—no radio, no air conditioning, no accessories—she was a member of the family. I sold her to a guy who had the time and know-how to put her back on the road.
After that, I always carried a fire extinguisher in my car.