Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Two years

Saw this in the news today:

   A house fire in Summit, Illinois left three children dead and the mother
   in critical condition. Investigators believe the fire started in the living
   room of the two story wood frame dwelling.

Two years ago today, we had a house fire. It started at around noon, on a Sunday. We were watching TV in the living room when we noticed smoke coming up the stairwell.

We were able to get people and animals out of the house safely- although we had only about a minute or two to do so before the smoke was so thick you could not see. I was able to knock the fire down temporarily with a fire extinguisher, but was not able to get close enough to put the fire out.

Funny thing- fire is hot. Really hot. With an outdoor fire, like a campfire, the heat and smoke rise into the air, so most of it dissipates quickly. Not so much inside a house.

The fire department took about 7 minutes to get there. We live half a mile from the fire station, but it is all-volunteer, so the firefighters had to go TO the station first, and I knew that. I stood in the front yard listening to glass jars and picture frames in my house explode from the heat while waiting.

We had no idea at the time what an unusual situation we would have, where the fire was mostly contained to the room of origin. What they call a "good stop." The house filled with thick, black smoke, so much so that it ran down the walls in the back of my closet. The fire itself came up the stairs, and it spread outwards from the room where it started to the ceilings of the other rooms downstairs, but the fire department was able to control it before the temperature got hot enough to flashover.

It was amazing how rapidly our thoughts turned from intense concern over possibly losing our house and everything we owned, to realizing it's all just stuff.

We were fortunate. We had insurance. After living in hotels for a month, we lived in travel trailers in our yard for 9 months while our house was first mostly gutted and then rebuilt. We have been back in the house for 14 months now, and although we have yet to finish going through the boxes of salvaged stuff, we are very appreciative of being here.

My point is this:

We did the right things, in the right order, and we all made it out okay. There was a series of fortunate circumstances that made it possible for the fire to be controlled quickly, with minimal, albeit still considerable, damage.

It so easily could have gone another way.

Had it begun at night, or when we were not home, the story would have likely had a very, very different ending. I can't even think about it.

My heart aches for that family in Illinois this morning. We are so grateful, and very aware, that but for the grace of god, that might have been our fate.


Spartacus Jones said...

I hate it when someones dies in a fire.
Absolutely hate it.

Very glad you didn't.


GreenJello said...

I just can't even imagine what you went through. But I agree with you-- it's all just stuff. Well, except for all the baby pictures... those I would mourn.

I am SO glad you and your family were able to get out safely.

Have you watched the report where it shows that kids sleep through smoke detectors going off? I know it happens in my house, and it scares me.

hilinda said...

Yes, I have watched the report. Scary. Anyone who hasn't seen it:

The company that sells the smoke detectors that allow you to record your own voice:

(Fortunately, we had sent copies of baby pictures to a lot of people, some of whom have now sent them back to us.)