Cambrian: Opinion

Cambria laundry fire not a load of trouble: It all came out in the wash

The columnist ended up doing her laundry at the coin-operated establishment in Cambria after her washerâ™s unfortunate flare-up.
The columnist ended up doing her laundry at the coin-operated establishment in Cambria after her washerâ™s unfortunate flare-up. Special to The Cambrian

Our washer caught on fire — during the spin cycle. Who knew that was possible? Luckily, I was sitting in the living room at the time and heard a noise that made me think, “Uh oh.” When I got to the laundry room, black smoke was curling up the wall behind the washer, and there were flames on the floor underneath. With this little crisis, we kissed our relaxing day at home goodbye.

My husband John came running when I yelped and immediately unplugged the washer. We wanted to move it away from the wall so we could put out the flames. While he was doing that, I grabbed the fire extinguisher. In order to move the washer, John had disconnected the drain hose and unceremoniously dropped it on the floor. It was full of water. The good thing is that the flood from the hose put out the flames before we had to try to figure out how to work the fire extinguisher. The bad thing is that it flooded the floor. 

I don’t know about you, but I rarely move the washer and dryer to clean under them. Too much water on the floor is one thing. Water mixed with the gunk under the washer and dryer is another. After the fire was out, we grabbed armloads of old towels and started sopping up the totally disgusting mess on the floor. Then John started scooping the remaining water into a bucket. After he dragged the washer outside, I finished cleaning the floor. 

John has always been insistent about never leaving appliances running when we’re not home. I always thought he was being unnecessarily Felix Unger about it, until now. What might have happened if we hadn’t been in the house? At the very least, a lot more than the linoleum floor in the laundry room might have burned. Worst case, it could have burned down the house and caused a forest fire. We are so far out of town that it would have taken Cal Fire way too long to get here, even if an alert neighbor had sounded the alarm.

Living off the grid in Cambria’s backcountry means we have always had energy limitations. When we moved here, we bought an excessively expensive, unfamiliar brand — but supposedly state-of-the-art — washer from somewhere back East that was guaranteed to be the most energy- and water-efficient washer on the market. You already know how state-of-the art worked out with our propane refrigerator mentioned in my last column. So now the exotic washer we bought nine years ago has joined our parade of disappointing appliances. 

Since nothing has changed with our energy resources, we needed to replace our washer with an equally efficient one. At the first store we checked, we found one that was highly rated by Consumer Reports, a reasonable price, and twice as energy- and water-efficient as our old washer. We fell in love with it on the spot, only to be told it was on back order and couldn’t be delivered for almost three weeks. 

So, at the moment, all we have is the promise of a wonderful washer and the chore of schlepping our clothes and linens all the way to Cambria to hang out at the laundromat like a couple of college students living in a dorm. I’ve asked John to please be very selective about the clothes he throws in the hamper until the new washer arrives. However, I am making the concession of letting him change his underwear every day.