I was at Nana and Bapa’s house for Sunday dinner on Friday.

Just kidding. It was Sunday. Sunday Dinner. Come on.

The kids had all finished eating and were off galavanting around the house. The adults were sitting around the table gabbing. Our bellies were full of the most incredible pot roast I think I’ve ever had. Dessert was making its way down our gizzards. Life was good.

Until, that is, every fire alarm in the house went off.

All the adults looked at each other in panic. That had never happened before. Where were the kids? Somewhere, somebody yelled fire!


I’ve never seen so many fully-stuffed people moving at such awesome speed. As I rounded the corner, the walls flickered with light. I couldn’t see it yet, but the stairwell to the upstairs playroom appeared to be in flames. My stomach clenched. Noah was at his mom’s house, but my nephews and niece were up there. I grabbed my mom’s nice throw off of the back of her couch and headed toward the flames. So did every other adult.

I got there less than two seconds later, just in time to see the flames disappear into nothing. Black blobs of smoke puffed their way from one of the glass fixtures in the hanging chandelier. Moms, Dads, Grandmas, Grandpas, Uncles, and Aunts began checking on kids, making sure everyone was okay, trying to figure out what had happened.

The light fixture had somehow caught on fire.

Taken the day after. The darkened fixture was the location where the fire was shooting high.

The kids were ushered downstairs after which the story began unfolding. My seven-year old nephew Sammy told his mom that he had bounced a ping pong ball off the floor and it had landed in the light fixture. Several of us manly men went to investigate. Could ping pong balls do that? There was only one way to find out. Around the now “burnt out” light bulb was a nice little meshy mess of burnt fibers. It certainly didn’t look like it could be a ping pong ball.

Next we went to Google and did an image search. It took some digging, but we finally found one picture that confirmed Sammy’s story. The burnt remains of a ping pong ball were indeed fiberesque. Weird.

Mad props to my nephew for telling the truth. Or at least most of the truth. Something tells me (and every other adult there) that the odds of a ping pong ball serendipitously landing in the light fixture, which happens to be within perfect reach of a 7-year old, is slim to none. I mean, amusement parks make big bucks getting everyday dingbats to throw ping pong balls into jars in hopes of wining some giant prize.

The fire department arrived within 15 minutes or so of the alarms going off. They had a good laugh over it all. I wonder how much it cost the good people of our city to have them drive the fire engine all the way to my folk’s house… all for a burning ping pong ball.

We were all just glad that the kids were safe. Oh, and we were glad the house was safe, too.

Of course, as I wrote this blog post I realized I couldn’t stop there. I had a perfectly good excuse to be a pyro. So, I decided to test the true flammability of ping pong balls, their total burn time, the final fibrous leftovers, etc.

I started by putting three ping pong into a glass pie pan, after which I doused them with lighter fluid. I put the pan onto the outside grill and let ‘er rip. It was time for a little CSI-Danoah.

It took less than 20 seconds for the ping pong balls to ignite, burn like nobody’s business, and then self-extinguish. The timing was about right for Sammy’s story.

Next, the fiber test. I took the pan inside where I could see the leftovers in the light. The fibers were identical to what we found in the light fixture. Another check mark for Sammy.

Looks like this case is closed.

My advice, don’t put ping pong balls next to light bulbs. Ever.

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

PS. Any of you ever experienced unexpected flames in your home? Seems like my family has a laundry list of house-catching-on-fire stories.