Saturday, September 12, 2009

So my house burned down the other day. . .

I have nothing but good to say about what has happened. (OK, one neighbour seemed to be fascinated by the loss and I found myself tending to her when I really needed to focus on the fire marshal and my own thoughts. She called the school when I already had things squared away and she gave me bags of stuff as the house was smouldering and I was like, "WTF am I supposed to do with this?" but I smiled and said "Thank you." Her kid lectured me about my kids bugging his dogs while Mom smiled. Whatever!)

On the tenth, I had two kids home. Dmitri was sick and as always, Starshine was home because she is three years old. She'd shut down my slow lap top and I sent her to her room, having forgotten that I'd lit a candle in there. What follows here is nto my report, but parts that are relevant to me.

She came running out in a top and panties and went to the dryer. I glanced up from my computer and saw lights coming out of her room. I thought that Cloud, who loves all things retro, had bought a strobe light or disco ball and I went in to check stuff out. There was a fire on her bed. I grabbed Starshine and put her in the living room with her brother, told him that there was a fire and to not leave the room. (He was on the couch.)

I went into the bedroom and tried to smother the fire but it shot back up at me. I remembered my forth grade fire education classes like they were 'last week' and the fireman's voice was in my head, telling us that when the flames got too big for us to control or that we might catch fire ourselves, to get out. I remembered how he told us that they didn't want to fight fires, but that they were trained to fight them and liked to fight them, but that they really didn't want to rescue someone who could have escaped. (Or something like that.) I wear long skirts and looked down at mine and realized that it might catch fire. It was time to leave. I went to my sons' room and blew out the candle.

(Later, I'd remember that there was a fire by the closet in my daughters' room, but it was what I could handle at the time with the fire on the bed. I like that I didn't notice the fire by the closet because I may have panicked.)

I went to the living room and fell trying to run the kids out-- I slipped on the hardwood floor, perhaps on a piece of laundry since I had clean clothes on one of the couches. For some reason, I laugh when I think of that.

I got the kids out, called 9-11, then went back in. I am one of those people who will be holding my cell phone and ask where it is. I decided that I needed my purse because I wanted my cell phone even though I was holding the cell phone. Flames were quite visible in my daughters room and were spreading. I ran to my room, no purse, paused at some pictures that we'd been looking at the day before and I briefly thought about taking them, but knew if I took one box that I'd have to come back for the others. I was thinking about pictures of my dad that would be lost to the fire that was making a lot of noise and a lot of smoke and I have no doubt that he was there. (We didn't get along. . . Eternity will last a lot longer once I get there and I doubt he wants me to join him!) I imagine him saying to me, "Kel, get your purse and your laptop. I'll take care of these."

I got my purse and my laptop. As I was leaving I noticed that the flames were near the door of the bedroom and going toward the linen closet. Probably little more than two minutes had passes since the fire had started.

I got outside, ran to the end of my driveway where the kids were standing next to my suburban and moved it up the road. (The kids were rooted where they were. Smoke was coming out of their house, they were probably seeing fire in the house through the front window. It was surreal to me, I can only imagine what it was for a couple of kids who didn't understand what was happening.)

(My obnoxious neighbour who I am sure "only wanted to help" called the school who called my kids' charter school and even though I had made arrangements for the kids to be picked up, I got a call from my kids' school. I'm sorry-- this irritated me. I wish the particular woman just sat inside her house. There is a reason I seldom spoke to her before. She had a "need" to help. My house was burning down and she was talking about where she'd be bringing me bags of unwanted clothing. That was so far from my mind!)

I went back to the house. At various moments, I called my husband and my mom. One of my friends-- it's funny how people respond in emergencies. I had everyone who needed to be called, called, and I needed this friend to get my kids. I called her, "Listen to me, I'm fine, everyone is fine, but my house is burning down." She jumped on me, "Don't call me! Call 9-11! Call your husband!" Argh! I eventually got her to understand that I knew what I was doing and that if she could, I needed her help! LOL

When I waited for the fire trucks to arrive (it seemed like forever) and saw fire shooting through my attic vent on the other side of my house, I knew I was loosing the house.

The Red Cross was there while the firepeople were putting the flames out. Two well dressed ladies in suits came and they had vouchers for a hotel suite and personnel items. My husband went to talk to them because I was more, "Is this real?" and dazed.

One of the firefighters is a friend of my eldest. When she said hello to me I ran and hugged her, "I'm so happy you are here!" She knew my mental state and laughed something like, "Well I'm not! This really sucks because your house burned down!" We'd find out that several of the firefighters have kids who attend my kids' schools. I felt good knowing that they were people we kinda knew.

Friends from church have helped us immensely. They knew we'd be overwhelmed by donations and one of the ladies is sorting through clothing. They are all arranging meals for us. My brother who is about to leave state came to help us and brought my eldest daughter out. Tiger was funny-- when I told her where we are staying, she said, "Pool! Do the boys have-- haha! I'll buy you all swimming suits! Kohl's is having a sale!" So. . . she came out with swimwear for all of us! I can't swim right now since I am hacking. She took three days off from work to be with us!

It was peculiar as to what I remembered right after the event and what I remember now. The fire marshal explained that I was amped up on adrenalin and that when I came down, I'd remember things a little differently. I assured him that I was fine. I kept coughing and he kept asking me if I was sure I didn't inhale any smoke. Oh yes, I was sure. . . yesterday I went to the ER clinic because I was hacking a lot and my breathing was at 50%. It wans't a cold. They said it was caused by a combination of the cold Id not gotten over, possible allergies and yes, inhaling chemicals in the smoke. I was in the house too long to have not inhaled.

We found my treasured photos on the lawn. Many were singed, but they were intact. Peaches was thrilled as she'd been looking at them the day before the fire. She is restoring them for me and all the photos of my dad survived. (That's why I feel like he protected them.)

I do not know what the coming year has in store for us. The insurance company is really going out of their way to help us. I am in the mode of, "When we rebuild, I want TWO fire alarms in each room, we will have ZERO candles even for icons, I want firewalls between each room. . ." I am in overkill mode.

It was bugging me how Starshine started the fire because I put the candle in a place that she couldn't reach it. Over breakfast this morning, Cloud provided the missing piece of that puzzle. The cabinet in her room that I set the candle on was wobbly and I had no idea as I'd never used it personally. Cloud knew that it wobbled, but there was no reason to tell me. Sometimes Starshine got in to it. Cloud said that all she had to have done was open the cabinet door with a little force and it may have slid.

In retrospect, I could have saved the house had I shut the window as soon as I saw the fire. There was a breeze and it fed the fire, although once it went into the attic, it was spreading.

My room had major smoke damage and was pretty much destroyed. The smell is sickening. Everything is being gotten rid of.

I learned how heat rises. On the other side of the house, doors were singed for the top 18 inches and were just sooty below. The heat was bad on top.

It was strange looking at the chairs I'd just been sitting in a couple of hours before, charred.

We lost our cat who adopted us during a court battle with my ex husband. She just showed up on the day that I temporarily lost custody and stayed. She was in the boys' room asleep on the top bunk. I cried a great deal for her.

It may take up to a year to rebuild our house. My clan in an apartment is NOT appealing but at least we will be together. I hope to stay in the same area for the schools. My husband and I may become big in volunteering for the Red Cross or, if not major volunteers, in a year or two put in some time helping them with a project.

Even in the midst of the tragedy, there is life. The night of the fire, my brother in law observed that we had just survived one of the scariest events in our lives, but there was Tiger handing out swimwear to the kids, they were excited to be at a hotel with a swimming pool and they were like little electrons around her, laughing and talking. She smiled at me right then and said, "Mom, take the good with the bad!"

Today we had breakfast at IHOP. It was the first meal where were all sat down together since Wednesday night. The kids were noisy and funny, Mudd discovered that where he was sitting that he had to dive under the table or make everyone move if he had to use the bathroom, so he claimed to need to use the bathroom several times. Finally my husband said, "You are not going again." He made a crass potty joke. Cloud realized that she had one of my rhinestone necklaces in her purse (WTF?!! she gets in to my stuff!) but I was happy she had it. Basil was taking advantage of the bottomless orange juice. Starshine was like a puppy on Tiger's boyfriend's lap, insisting that he hold her and he didn't mind. I actually ate enough so the steroids for the smoke inhalation would not make me sick. It was refreshing.

We lost everything, but I also feel like good will happen. We keep looking up and looking ahead.


Ropi said...

I am sorry about that horrible event.

GDad said...

Holy wow!

I'm saddened by your loss, but happy that everyone is OK. Best of luck in this new chapter.

Palm Springs Savant said...

OK, I have been away FAR TOO LONG and had no idea. I am so sorry to hear this sad news, but of course you have each other.

I'll keep you in my prayers.

Tea N. Crumpet said...

Thanks, everyone! Rick, you have been rather busy and it honours me that you read so much thise evening!