Thursday, October 25, 2007

A House Fire

This post at Sparrows (All Atwitter) and the fires in SoCal got me thinking...

A slightly different decision a few years ago and I’d be living in SoCal... maybe even one of those in the fire... huh... kinda surreal.

So, if you got a call or came home to find your place on fire, what would you do? Stand there frozen... Call 911 and wait... run in and grab... photos, jewelry, heirlooms... what would you do??

I personally don’t know. I think I’d be in the house throwing stuff out the windows trying to save any and everything possible. Hopefully fighting the fire.

About 3 years ago, my mom came home from work and when she entered the house she could smell smoke. (My parents house is a long ranch, you go from room to room, then a small hall, then a great room/kitchen/dinging/living room then a sun porch) When she opened the door to the next room she was swarmed with smoke. All gathered on the ceiling, down to about 5 feet. She closed the door and went back out side, called 911. She went around to the back of the house and could see flames and thick black smoke in the kitchen window. She ran around to the front of the house and came in a different door (middle of the living/great room)... with a garden hose, a wet rag over her nose and mouth and attacked the fire.

She actually put most of it out and then went for her babies.

My mom runs a ‘do not kill’ animal shelter for dogs and cats. At any given time she will have 100-200 cats and 50-100 dogs in a shelter she has built in town. There is always the special ones that get to stay at the house though. The number has been holding steady at 30 cats, 1 dog for the last couple years. These are the geriatric cats or special needs cats that will not get adopted at her shelter.

She spent the next couple hours finding cats in the smoke, pulling them out, putting them in carriers and rushing them to the vet. Somewhere in there she called friends to chauffer the cats to the vet while she kept the rescue effort going. Somewhere in there also, the firemen showed up and opened doors and put fans in windows.

Old portraits of relatives from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were black. The glass in the frames had cracked form the heat. All of their books, some first editions form the early 1900’s were black with smoke. There were these real 70’s style fake wood beams on the ceiling in the dinning area, they melted and were dripping from the ceiling. All and I do mean ALL of the Tupperware or any plastic storage containers were ruined. They hold smoke. I believe one of the cats died, all of the rest made it. The vet bill was in the thousands. Eye washing, nasal flushing, baths. Turns out cats are kinda like horses. When scared they go to there favorite hiding/sleeping spot and stay there. All of the ones that had chosen high spots up in closets suffered the worst.

They spent 6 months in an apartment. The cats stayed in their barn. The heirloom stuff was repaired. There are actually companies that specialize and guarantee that they can remove smoke color and smell from clothes, art and books. They are back in the house now. For years growing up we heated with a wood fire. One of those big cast iron stove inserts. They haven’t used it in years, since the fire. Mom can’t stand the smell of smoke.

The cause... A coffee pot. One of those kinds that is ‘always ready’. Pour the water in and it starts making coffee in 30 seconds or less. That means that a heating element is always on or at least sensing the reservoir for water and turning on when water is poured in. The thermal switch broke, the heating element did not turn off. Burnt itself through the counter top and into the cabinet below. Caught dish towels and other paper products and spread from there.

The firemen said that the smoke and heat told them that it had been going for about 3 hours. Another 15 minutes and it would have been ‘a total loss’. If my mom had not attached the fire with the hose... it would have burnt to the ground before the firemen could get there.


steph said...

Yeah for your mom that she went back in for the animals. Honestly? A living creature would be the only thing I would go back in for. The rest is just stuff and not worth putting yourself at risk for.

Anonymous said...

That's a tough question.

I'd try to go back in for photo albums and such. I try to keep everything that means something to me in one certain area.That way it will be easier to get to instead of running all over the place in case of a fire.

I'd go back in for my kids of course.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness your mom was ok! She sounds like a trooper.

B. Miller said...

Your mom's a rock star, DNR. So frickin' cool...

Hm, what would I go back in for? My three cats, my computer tower (it has all my music and writing on it) and a couple other posessions I've had since childhood. Hopefully I'll never have to make a decision like that!!

DNR said...

Queenie - I know what you mean... but some of the rest... I’d go back for. You really wouldn’t try to save some frig art or a pic?

Pp - I never plan that far ahead (to have everything that means something in one place). My/our stuff is all over the place.

Sparrow - Yeah, a little smoke... sickness(?). she had to be on oxygen for a few hours.

B - “a rock star”, She’d get a kick out of hearing someone say that. Thanks B!!

Anonymous said...

wow, that was lucky. Hope your mom didn't have any ill effects from breathing that stuff. I've often thought about what I'd grab on my way out (besides Mom and Spot)-I think I'd try to grab my purse, but I don't think there's anything worth running back in a burning house for. I gotta remember to put some backup discs in my safety deposit box in the bank.