A shocking thing happened to me a few days ago.

A burning log rolled right out of my fireplace, hit the fireplace screen from the inside, and both log and screen were at once splayed out on my living room carpet. I leapt from my chair, got the log back in the fireplace, readjusted the screen and felt a profound wave of gratitude that I’d been right there when it happened.

I realized that, had I gone into the bathroom and taken a 10-minute shower, the results would have been radically different and quite possibly tragic.

Not long ago, a woman many of us know and like lost her home to fire. I am not aware of the details, but I do know that, when she was not at home, somehow the fire escaped and her house burned down. I continually — and I really mean this — think of her name to myself. It reminds me to practice the routine I came up with. I do it every single time — no exceptions.

I have an iron insert-type fireplace with two iron doors on its front. Whenever I shower, sleep or leave my house, I not only close these iron doors but I place a heavy iron pitcher — the kind you put on top of a fireplace to add humidity to the air — on the ledge at the base of the doors, thus very effectively locking the doors shut. The rolling log — and I accept that I could have constructed a better fire — showed me that I cannot simply leave the screen in place and assume this will be enough.

I do this routine every time, regardless of if I’m in a hurry or I’m really tired. If it’s a small fire, I don’t debate it with myself. My mind is thus not weighed down by worry. Same as when I go to bed. I know in my heart the fire will eventually die down behind those sealed doors and I can have happy dreams.

I can’t imagine the heartache that a home-destroying fire engenders. I don’t want to. I don’t want to lose my pictures, my computer, my guitars — all my stuff, — and I don’t want this to happen to you either. I’m grateful that I can learn from an unfortunate neighbor’s experience without having to suffer it myself. Hopefully you can too.

Pete Pedro Anderson