I can’t say I like having firetrucks in front of my house, but perhaps I should be getting used to it. I had to call 911 today.


When I got home, Kristen told me that there was a horrible smell in the house. It smelled like turpentine and seemed like it was coming from the drain in our basement. She called the Grand Rapids City Water Department. They told her to pour water down the drain and see if it stopped. It didn’t.

She asked them what to do. They had no suggestions.

I called 911. Less than 10 minutes later, we had 2 firetrucks and at least 8 firemen in our front yard. As the captain got out I asked him, “Isn’t this overkill for a bad smell?”

The went through our house, checking for things that might have caused the smell. The best candidate seemed to be the paint that we kept in the same basement room as the drain and the washer and dryer. We took it out to the garage and then they pulled out 2 massive fans, opened the side door to our house, and blew the smell out of our basement.

Before the captain and the 2 crews left, he mentioned that it didn’t make much sense to him. Normally, he’d think that it was due to paint being poured down the drain, drying and then stinking. In this case it seemed unlikely because we do a lot of laundry and thus send a lot of water down the drain. It also seemed unlikely to him that our paint was causing the smell because it smelled different from the basement. Besides, the trap should have stopped it.

He told us to call him back if the smell returned.

We went out to dinner and by the time we got home, it was obvious the smell had returned.

I called 911 again and in less than 10 minutes the firemen returned, this time taking only one truck and crew. The lieutenant (the captain didn’t come this time) had me run the water while firemen again looked through the house (opening drawers, closets and everything) for possible sources of the smell.

This time I had some new information. One thing about having firetrucks in your yard is that the whole neighborhood comes out of their houses to check what’s going on. Apparently, our next door neighbor’s former boyfriend had been painting her porch for the last couple days. Today he had finished and cleaned up the brushes and paint.

She didn’t think that he had done anything bad with it, but… Well, I’ve met him and he is a nice guy, but I can easily imgine him pouring turpentine down the storm sewer, figuring that no one will notice a little bit.

I mentioned this to the lieutenant and while he didn’t say that that had to be it, he did mention that he knew of cases like that. He had me open up all the faucets and run water down the drains, flush the toilets, and wait for 15 minutes. After that, they ran the fans again.

Before they left, the lieutenant mentioned that if the smell came back, they would send in a crew with the necessary equipent to find out exactly what the smell was and whether or not it was dangerous.

The smell didn’t come back.

I phoned Kristen (who had taken the kids to her mom’s house) and let her know. Bearing in mind that it was now 10:30 pm, I drove over there as well. As of Thursday morning, there’s little smell at all.

The only lingering effects of this seem to be in my children’s imaginations. Kids tend to like firemen. The firemen who came here were great with kids, playing with them, offering to show them the firetrucks, and pretending to steal Rebecca’s tongue (and give it back).

Rebecca was highly disappointed to see them go, saying “Where firefighters go?” and “Firefighters, come back!” Also, during supper she would occasionally announce, “I call 911 again.”

I hope not. They’re nice guys, but, this was a major pain in the butt.

Also, if anyone out there feels an urge to paint, please, please do not pour anything down the drain that you don’t want in your own basement.

Your neighbors will thank you.

2 thoughts on “Firetrucks”

  1. I just moved into an apt. and the landlady painted the counter top with some oil based paint…. which (i think) she poured down the drain…. along with turpentine. Now everytime we run the tap in the bathroom, it stinks and sometimes some paint comes back up…. like chunks…. any ideas as how to get rid of it altogether?
    I am broke, can’t aford a plumber and the landlady denies it!


  2. I don’t know, but my wife (a social worker who does assist her clients when they have problems with landlords) says that you should probably be contacting a lawyer.

    Your state has laws regarding tenant/landlord relationships. Which ones apply in your location, I have no idea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.