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Behind the Floral Wallpaper 

Published February 10, 2009 at 1:58 p.m.

One thing I like about my Front Porch Forum listserv is the regular updates from the Burlington Fire Marshal's office whenever there's a fire in my neighborhood. It's rare to get detailed information directly from a public official about what happened at the scene of an accident — and despite the rubbernecking aspect, each update also drives home a particular point abut fire safety. (You can subscribe to the Fire Marshal's public information updates directly via e-mail; see the link under "Public Information and Education" here.)

The most recent such update from Assistant Fire Marshal Thomas Middleton detailed how rodents were to blame for a bizarre Hill section blaze last weekend. Firefighters had to use thermal imaging cameras to find where the fire was hidden.The Free Press also reported on the details of the fire, based on Middleton's summary of events.

I understand that this is no laughing matter; lots of Vermont houses have mice living in the walls, and they can wreak havoc with property. I've wrestled with the live-trap/dead-trap/poison dilemma myself while dealing with a nasty infestation, and I'm sure the family that had to flee their burning house on Saturday night have nothing favorable to say about the critters. But I have to admit that I giggled at the title of the "Mice Caused House Fire" update on my Front Porch Forum — and I blame former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins. I heard him read his poem "The Country" at St. Michael's College a few years ago, and just found that he has collaborated with animator Brady Baltezor to produce a visual rendition.

Now I'm really suspicious of their beady little eyes.

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Meghan Dewald


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