Opinion » Bill Cope

The Flutter—Chimney Danger Edition

A sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly, sometimes annual Society For Making People Better newsletter.


Rajah Bill was not planning on putting out a "Flutter" any time soon. However, his benefactors at the Boise Weekly informed him that for this week only, his column would be squeezed into a space borrowed from the Legoland Weekly.

Such a development would not normally upset your Rajah. After all, one alignment is as good as another in the two-dimensional world of newsprint, is it not? He wouldn't care if his words ran catty-corner from right to left, or upside down even, not as long as those words were left the way he wrote them. (Note to editors: Keep your grubby paws off Rajah Bill's words!)

But this arrangement has presented him with another problem: There is room for only two-thirds of the normal word count. Imagine that! One-third of Rajah Bill's usual wordage must be lopped off like an unruly nose hair.

So the Rajah has decided to use the event to add a new rule to the Society For Making People Better Rule Book. And here it is--Rule No. 16: In all the hustle and bustle, the tweeting and texting, the hither and dither of modern living, do not forget to have your chimney swept. (Note to SFMPB members: When copying this rule into your personal rule books, do it in pencil for now. Rajah Bill is not entirely pleased with the wording as it is, and has promised to have another look at it.)

Now, as to how Rule No. 16 came to be. You see, last weekend, Rajah Bill had a fire in his chimney. (Note to those who do not understand how a chimney can catch on fire: There is not the room here to adequately explain. Just go to your Internet terminal, google forth "creosote buildup," and see what you come up with.)

The fire came as quite the surprise to your Rajah. No, he had not had his chimney swept in the 10 years he has lived at his present address. But he often went up on the roof, examined the chimney with a flashlight and saw nothing that looked like it might catch on fire. That is the danger of this nefarious creosote goop: It looks like it already has burned up, so it's hard to imagine that it can burn up again!

But it can, and does. And if you're ever sitting around a chirping fire some winter's eve and you hear a sound that makes you believe a 787 is about to land on your house, it's probably your chimney on fire.

Now listen carefully: A chimney fire can be extinguished with a lot less water than you might think, as a little water goes a long ways when it's turned into steam. Which is why, if you have a chimney fire, you should douse your regular fire with water. Psssshhhhhhh! Up it goes, into the chimney. And the fire goes out.

This is exactly what Rajah Bill did. He threw water onto the fire and put it out. Pshew, that's a relief, he thought. Then he realized his wife, upstairs, must certainly have heard the roar, too. So he raced up to catch her before she called 911. Too late. Something you should know: Once you do a 911 call, it is almost impossible to undo the 911 call.

Yet another thing you should know: That Meridian Fire Department is a bunch of boyos to be proud of. Within three minutes, there were two big ol' fire trucks in front of Rajah Bill's house. Within six minutes, there were two more. And they just kept on acoming. Six big ol' fire trucks when all was said and done, lined up and down the street like a parade getting ready to start. The whole neighborhood was out to watch. It was like the Fourth of July. Only colder.

Ah, dear SFMPBers, your Rajah sees his page is about full. Perhaps at another time, he will tell you what it's like to watch a dozen firemen rush into your house carrying axes. (Note to self: Replace "hither and dither" in Rule 16's wording with "bump and grind." Oh, and get the damn chimney swept!)