Note: This is the second blog post in my series about my fire and how I have dealt with it. I look forward to comments on this one!
I sat helpless in my new, jet black Ford Fusion hybrid, with my cat hunkered down in the back seat. The heat was cranked, because I was clad only in a pair of white boxer briefs, and I knew, as well, that the heat would soothe the cat. Not a half hour into the fire, she was purring on the floor and soon went off to sleep. Shortly after the fire trucks had arrived, I called several people. Longtime friends Palmer Stevens and Doug Rutley dutifully showed up within less than a half hour, Doug bearing clothes for me and Palmer wearing a miner’s headlamp and armed with a video camera. Palmer’s entrance on the scene was somewhat surreal: as the fire raged, he ran around shooting video and taking pictures, which provide a good record of how things transpired.
At this point, my heart continued to race. My main concern was that the firefighters contain the fire to the garage and breezeway so I would not lose the whole house. But, almost an hour in, the blaze continued. One of the problems was that the garage door would not open, preventing quick and easy access to the fire. Firefighters brought in a massive saw and cut it out, while another crew used ladders to access the garage roof, and cut a whole from above.
As the removal of the garage door gave a clear view of the fire, I had a sign of hope: my Snapper riding lawnmower, a machine I really love to use, was undamaged, and sitting toward the edge of the garage. I got out of the car and quickly made my way to one of the head honchos: “My riding mower is right there. Can you guys get it out?” Lieutenant Brown, a very compassionate man, turned to me with an empathetic frown and replied, “Mr. Roberts, we are not to that stage of the process. This is an active scene and we’re still trying to control this fire.” Almost as soon as the words left his mouth, a loud boom and a flash of fire erupted in the front of the garage; the gas can next to my 13.5-horsepower Snapper exploded, and my beloved mower was essentially toast.
Guilt rushed through me the moment the gas can exploded, and I decided to let these men do their job. Attachment to my possessions could have put a fireman’s life in peril! So many thoughts and feelings teemed within me. I could not contain them. I got back in my car and asked my friend, Doug, to come with me. He just let me talk things out, listening to whatever ramblings left my mouth. This helped to calm me down.
I had an overwhelming desire to do something, but there was really nothing I could do, and I just seemed to be getting in the way. I am a man of action, but on this day I was a victim. I hate uttering that word, but it is the truth. Realizing that the lawnmower could not be saved drove home the severity of the situation. I was in danger of losing everything, and I was completely powerless to prevent that from happening.
A few minutes went by and they began to move the fire trucks, which I thought was a good sign. As the large hook-and-ladder truck rumbled up my street, however, I realized that the exact opposite was true. “Mr. Roberts,” Lieutenant Brown beckoned me, “the attic between the garage and the house is packed with stuff and that area is becoming the real fire.” The hook-and-ladder Leviathan was moved into place so that its hose could bombard the attic with a constant flow of water, much of which made its way to the lower level of my house.
I later learned that while this move prevented the whole house from burning down, it was also responsible for sending massive amounts of smoke and soot into the main house. One of the firefighters told me I could be back in the house in a month or two, but closer inspection put that figure at 6 months or more. The trouble is that the whole house smells like smoke, so much so that 3-4 minutes is about as long as I can take without a mask. I hope to be back in by Easter.
After the first day, I had a lot of data to synthesize, needed to find a place to stay, figure out lodgings for my cat, Ms. Kitaline Kitt-Kitt, and begin to let my new life soak in. I will go into Day 2 in the next blog posting. I really welcome comments, and am open to provide more detail on any point you find interesting.