I truly believe I saved my daughter life, and possibly our whole family’s lives, last week. And all because of a persistent smell of fish food.
We don’t have a fish.
For over a week there was first a subtle smell of fish, “…like when you make crab, Mom,” according to Logan. Then it escalated to a smell so bad we shut the door, put air-fresheners in place and had Whitney go sleep on Logan’s top bunk until we had time for a hard-target search.
I initially asked Whitney if she had found an old collection of seashells recently or maybe had some other organic material she was saving to transform into brilliant artwork that was obviously going rotten. But she swore her recently re-organized room was hiding no offenders.
We kept doing quick, cursory checks to sniff out an obvious source, but the source of the stench eluded us. I could usually pinpoint the smell to somewhere near her dresser covered with 7-year old ideas of keepsakes (collected rocks, broken jewelry, Disney CD’s) and her art corner next to it – an overflowing mess of creativity. But we couldn’t locate a spot that made us say, “Ah-a! This is it.”
Finally, Saturday came and we (me, Hubby, SIL, MIL) literally tore Whitney’s room apart, sniffing anything and everything. We smelled all bazillion stuffed animals, pillows, comforters and blankets for rotting cotton. We searched the art corner for spoiled materials. We pulled out her dresser, her bed, her drawers, checked every nook and cranny of the closet for something that might have crawled in her room and died. Nothing.
Everyone said, “Oh well, we tried, too bad, hopefully it’ll go away.”
But I couldn’t let it go. Something literally did not smell right.
I decided it must be coming from the vents, under the house or in the attic. I got on a chair and smelled the ceiling vent. I went outside and smelled under her window and under the house. I sent Hubby into the attic. Nothing.
After having Hubby putty a hole left by a hook in the ceiling, the smell seemed to get better. We decided it must’ve come from the attic after all and let Whitney sleep in her room again.
The next day is when disaster was averted.
As the evening was approaching, one last cloud burst dumped so much rain over our house that our gutters backed up and began leaking through the window in Logan’s room. I went into Whitney’s room to check her window and the smell was back worse than ever! And it was definitely coming from her window area behind her dresser.
I called Hubby in to help me move the dresser to see what had finally materialized. But there was still nothing where we had once already checked and vacuumed.
As Hubby walked away to grab some 409, saying it was probably something rotting in the track from her window made worse by the moisture – something immediately smelled different.
It was smoke.
“Do you think the outlet is going bad? Is it something electrical?” I asked my contractor husband in alarm.
He touched the outlet where Whitney had her CD player and papier-mâché flower lamp plugged in. He jerked his hand back as the scorching outlet burned his hand. Quickly we yanked the plugs out of the socket, so hot you could not handle them.
While Hubby went to get his electrical tools to investigate further, I looked around my daughter’s room in shock and horror – paper posters and artwork covering nearly every inch of wall-space, an art corner piled with combustible materials, the cotton and polyester draped bed right next to her dresser. The very bed she would’ve been in when her room caught fire with no time to escape.
My blood ran cold as my husband dismantled the outlet, which immediately shorted the lights, showing me the scorched plastic and melted wires. There was no doubt in my mind that an electrical fire had been immanent that night and we had saved her life. Hubby immediately checked the smoke detector right outside her room, but I knew, that even though it tested working, it would’ve sounded too late to so save her from the fire’s origin.
Later, Hubby consulted with a licensed electrician finding out that a fish food smell is a common warning of a loose negative wire in an outlet.
I am so grateful that my daughter’s life was spared that I want to make sure disaster can be averted for other families with this story of caution. So please, if you smell fish food, and you don’t have a fish or hermit crab for a pet, check your electrical outlets. Or better yet, if you have an old house like mine, have every outlet in your house checked anyway. A life could depend on it.
I never thought I would be grateful for my kid’s room smelling like something died in it but that very smell kept that very thing from happening.