So last night for Valentine's Day, My-Sugar-Na suggested that I grill a couple of really nice steaks that she had purchased recently. Since I can grill with best of them (charcoal, people; gas grills are like outdoor ovens) I decided it would be quite lovely to stand out in a gentle snowfall and fire up the ol' grill. I grill regularly - even in winter - and most recently grilled on Super Bowl Sunday.
About 5:30ish I got home from work, pulled the grill from the garage, arranged the coals, spritzed with lighter fluid (I don't know were I got that off-brand from... I don't remember buying it) and lit the match. Within a few seconds, the coals were ablaze, a beautiful color contrast with the white snow on the ground and flying through the air.
I let the coals get white-hot for about 15 minutes, and I put the steaks on and went back in the house for a little while.
(So far, other than the winter part, this is a scene that is played out in backyards accross the country, right? Nothing odd to the story as far as I can tell.)
Then why did the West Allis Fire Department send a full first-alarm? Station 3 showed up (engine, ladder, paramedics and chief).
I was in the living room at the time and saw the reflection of the squad lights, and the paramedics were parked about two doors down. Then the engine and ladder showed up with sirens blaring... the ladder parking right in front of my house. I watched from the front porch, and they went towards the house two doors east. They had their SCBA tanks on, and one was carrying an axe... I thought this was pretty cool. Concerned for the neighbors, but cool nonetheless.
At this point, the steaks were ready to be turned over, so I went towards the back of the house to where the grill was. I saw the fire fighters in the neighbor's back yard as if they were looking for something. When I was done turning the steaks, I walked up the driveway to the front of the house again, and a Lieutenant met me and asked if I had smelled smoke. I pointed to my grill, and four hungry-looking firefighters all took a look at those lovely steaks. (They claimed to have just finished eating, but I had to salt that part of the driveway where they had been drooling.) The grill wasn't putting off much smoke at all (this was good meat, mind you) and I know my way around charcoal. In other words, everything was in order.
The Lieutenant explained that someone passing by smelled something that may have been the lighter fluid burning off of the coals after I lit the grill, and they called it in. He did explain that for some reason, the smell of the flammable liquid settled in front of the house two doors down. He said it must have been that the wind blew the smoke from the flaming coals in that direction, and the snow that was falling was preventing the smell from dispersing.
We all had a good laugh, a handshake, and the fire department left without eating my steaks.