When my wife and I first found the source of the smoke it knocked me down!
Now I am a big guy so it takes a lot to knock me down. A face full of smoke is all it took and I now understand why smoke kills over flames. It was unreal. I got up held my breath and again fell to the floor. There is no holding your breath.
In an electrical fire (and I will guess any fire for that matter) the smoke is think, acidy and will take you down in a split second. My wife was out of the house with our 5 year old and called 911. In less than 5 minutes a police officer is standing behind me telling me to get out now. A firefighter ran in and with his bare hands (and no this is not a movie script!) tore a door from its hinges in one fast motion and tossed it on my front lawn.
It’s about 1:50 a.m. and there are 4 fire companies and what seems like 50 or more firefighters on my property. The block is filled with fire trucks, 4x4’s and police cars. It is surreal.
Our house, the one we loved and the one my wife was making beautiful on a budget of almost nothing is burning. I’m pacing up and down the block hoping it’s really nothing but a small fire but I know we are about to lose the house and I am in all honesty in some state of shock over it. We don’t have much and now it’s going up in smoke.
My wife calls Father Augustine from Cure of Ars since she sees the look on my face and the insane nervous energy I am now trying to get under control. He is there in a flash trying to get me to sit but it’s impossible. Thank God for our neighbors who are with us the entire time. They must have thought they were being robbed when my wife starts banging on their door at 1:30 in the morning.
My daughter doesn’t understand yet as she is resting on the couch in my neighbor’s house watching cartoons. I think at this point my wife gets the credit for keeping it together and trying to get me to calm down before I have a stroke (no joke) as it is getting worse by the minute.
The firefighters are very efficient, not neat but efficient. They throw an air conditioner out of the top floor window and then it becomes real when what looked like a big flame shoots out as if someone is using a flame thrower and we see the entire upstarts engulfed in flames.
As time goes on they begin throwing things out the window, chairs, lamps, planters. If it’s not nailed down its flying out the window! As all this is happening, someone approaches me to say they are form a board up company and wanted to know if I wanted to use their services. The house and everything in it is burning and someone is trying to sell me something! Lucky for us the fire chief is there and he takes us aside and begins to explain the long process we are about to go through.
So begins what will be endless paperwork and note taking. I am also warned by my neighbor, who is experienced in these things as a city police officer, I am going to be approached starting a 7 AM by public adjusters (more on this next time and you will want to pay attention) who will promise me the world.
A few hours after the start of this nightmare the fire is out and the house is smoldering. The smell of burned wood and smoke is everywhere and I am now starting to get sick from breathing it. We are allowed to go in to get whatever we can for a few minutes at best. So much water is pumped into the house that it is “raining” on all the floors of the house. Water is everywhere and the plaster walls are now popping from soaking up so much. There is no electricity so it is lit by the now rising sun and it is as spooky as it gets. Everything is wet, burned or smoke damaged. The house we just finished celebrating Father’s Day in is now looking like a house of horrors. We fill my father’s 4x4 with what we can. It suddenly becomes real that we just lost everything we own.
My daughter, who I fuss over endlessly to the point I get "corrected" about constantly on how she will not suffer if I do not get or do everything for her (shes daddy's one and only so its not going away anytime soon) has just lost, we soon learned EVERYTHING she owned as children's items will not be salvaged at all. No clothing, toys, dolls nothing. I also soon realize all the photos, important papers, clothing, collectibles everything is either lost or in danger of being lost if we do not get it out fast.
We would, in the end lose about 90 percent of our possessions and the full impact is still being felt 5 months later as we go to get something and realize its gone. The latest is our Christmas tree that we bought from Fortunoff on our first Christmas when we were married. It was magnificent to the point everyone thought it was real when they saw it. Hundreds of Christmas decoration gone as well.
We got lucky as the salvage company (more on this next item) got out 20 plus plastic bins of Hallmark ornaments I collect that I had just recently moved into the bins for safe keeping, but to this day they remain in storage and we will not see them to Christmas 2012. As we enter Christmas the realization of having to start over is making me crazy. If it were just me and my wife, we wouldn't worry but we now have to find money to give our daughter a nice Christmas.
As for the rest of the house contents we have to leave them in the house to try to have salvaged. I send my wife to my parents and stay behind to watch them board the house and clean up. It’s about 6:30 and I notice cars pulling up but nobody getting out. At about 6:55 a line of men begin to form across the street maybe 8 to 12 and its starts to grow.
At 7 AM sharp, as if a race track announcer yelled “And their off!” they begin to come toward me. Enter the public adjusters.