Friday, July 10, 2009

Fire Marshalls and Chimney Caps

I'm not sure what bother me more the degree to which everyone around me is out of control or the degree to which I'm out of control. It depends on my state of mind in the moment. I'm a little weak at anything that has to do with repair, remodeling, refurbishing, redesigning, assembling, or use of tools. This constantly creates problems for me.

For some reason the Fire Marshall of Brigantine drove past my house a few months ago and noticed that my chimney did not have a cap on it. I never noticed that chimneys have caps. Anyway he gave us a summons for violating a fire code. We had to repair it immediately or risk further fines. I wasn't sure who to call or what to do. I actually ended up speaking to a roofer, a plumber, two handymen, and a chimney company. Since we have a gas fireplace it was a little more complicated than I could have imagined. There were many different options proposed depending on whether or not we wanted to use the fireplace and or the degree to which we were willing to risk fire, inhaling poisonous gas. or permanently damaging our roof, chimney, fireplace, and housing structure.

Not knowing what to do and not wanting to think about it, I sent a letter to the Fire Marshall asking for more time. I stated that we had contacted a number of people and that none of them could do the work immediately and that it was a more expensive project than we could afford at the moment. He agreed to postpone any further action for an undefined period of time. A few weeks ago, we received a letter stating that we needed to appear in court for violation of the Brigantine fire code.

I asked my wife to call the Fire Marshall and explain that she had been laid off, that we were a little short of cash, and that it was more complicated than we thought. He was sympathetic, but said it was out of his hands and was now in the hands of the court system. He recommended though that we probably would be better off if we had the work done before we appeared in court.

I asked my wife to handle it. I was a litle tied up with some important items and she wasn't working. She called Chimney Doctor and a few other guys who handle chimneys. Chimney Doctor came over, looked at the roof, looked in the fireplace, and stated that it would be minimum of $960.00 if we wanted to do the job right. The problem was deeper than it seemed. There was leakage in the fireplace which could escalate into a bigger problem. The best solution was some type of high tech metal that would prevent further erosion and last forever. The guy seemed sincere and knowledgeable My wife wanted to do it and end the problem and aggravation. I was in the middle of some important work and did not want to make an immediate decision. I told her to tell him that we would call him back.

The next guy came over with a ladder, climbed up on the roof, and came down with a Polaroid showing that the chimney did actually have a cap on it. It was a flat cap. It could not be seen from the street. No one, including the fire marshall, had actually climbed on the roof to get to the truth about the situation. Typical.

I immediately went to the Fire Marshall's office to show the photo of the cap and hopefully get the court appearance cancelled. He wasn't there. He was on vacation. Typical. His secretary said that she didn't think anything could be done since it was already in the court system and the fact that we actually had the cap wasn't relevant at this point.

I know that I could have handled this better I was out of control throughout the process and unwilling to deal with the situation and now I am even more frustrated and out of control. But, hey, I'm not the only crazy one here. I'm waiting for the Fire Marshall to call me. I'm not optimistic.

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