At 4 am this morning, I awoke suddenly to the sound of scratching. I lie there for a while trying to decipher what was making the noise, and eventually realized that cats had probably discovered the white rat I spotted last week in the exposed area of our porch ceiling.
But then I happened to noticed that both cats were in our bedroom.
The scratching and clawing sound continued so I flew out of bed and turned on the light in the stairwell, hoping to catch the intruder in the act.
But something was wrong. There was a light on downstairs, and I remember turning all the lights off before bed.
Then the light began to dance and flicker and I knew.
Our house was on fire.
I raced down the stairs, looked around the corner and, sure enough, chest-high flames were licking the back porch screen door and windows. The fire looked strong enough to travel quickly, and in my mind it might as well have eaten its way into our kitchen. Taking the stairs two at a time, I ran into our bedroom shouting, “DAVE! OUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE!!!!”
Looking back, I am amazed at how quick panic set in. The horrible sight of the fire, the cracking sound of breaking glass, the acrid smell and the fear of the flames spreading threw me into such a state that I didn’t even know what to do first or who to call.
Hello, dummy, call 911.
But in my frenzy, I figured I needed to call the local fire department directly so I flew back downstairs to look for a phone book. Trying to track down a number in a phone book while panicked is impossible, however, so I called 911 anyway. The operator told me to get everyone out of the house quickly, so the minute I hung up, Mr. Smith and I both raced to get dressed.
Mr. Smith rushed into the back porch and tried to quell the flames with a fire extinguisher, but to no avail. The flames were too strong. Immediately, smoke started to billow into the house.***
Giving up on ever finding shoes (where were my shoes?!?), I began looking for the cats. Thankfully both were in our bedroom and I rushed them one by one into our car. I am so thankful Brody and Baby Girl didn’t scatter out of fright because it was getting harder to breathe and maneuver through the house by the minute. I was amazed at how quickly it had become difficult to see or breathe!
Finally, turning on every ceiling fan and opening every window within reach, I ran from the house to wait for help.
By now it was 4:20 am and neighbors were already in the street. I went to ask for a cup of water from a lady, and she gave me a whole bag of bottled water. (Note to self: Make some bread for that lady.)
Sweeter than our neighbors were our volunteer fire department who quenched the flames and blew the smoke out of our house.
The cats safe and the fire addressed, I called our friends who live around the corner and they were there in an instant to calm us down and take us back to their house for a cup of tea.
I am so very thankful for all of our friends and loved ones. Going through such a fright on our own would have swallowed us whole. In times like this, you really do just need a hug and a comforting word.
So…what caused the fire?
I hesitate to tell you because, well, it was a very foolish reason…
Fireplace ashes that were placed in a paper bag and set on back porch. At the time they were scooped, they were dead and cold.
Or so we thought.
The fire chief told us that ashes can stay hot for up to a week. Very sobering news. We have learned our lesson the hard way.
As for smoke alarms, we did not have those either. Bad homeowners, BAD!
Thankfully, all of us are safe, the main area of our home was not damaged and all we lost was some siding, a door and a few windows. (And that elusive white rat, if we’re lucky.)
Moments like these bring up all sorts of terrible “what if” questions, and I am trying not to entertain them.
Instead, I will think upon on all our dear ones who have comforted and helped us so much already today.
We love you all!!!
***A NOTE OF APOLOGY:
In the chaos of our house catching fire, Dave and I did not really get a chance to sit down and talk about the events until the evening. Now that I have heard and understood, it is important you all know, too.
During the actual fire, we split up to take care of different things, he the fire, me the cats. So, I had no idea Dave was actually the one who had put the fire out before the firefighters arrived. After the extinguisher didn’t work, he ran around to the back of the house and was able to put out the fire with a hose (that I had actually thought of unhooking last week and putting away for the season).
Since our fire department is volunteer-based, it takes a little bit longer for help to come. We waited about 15 minutes for the firefighters and in that time the fire could have spread to places I don’t want to think about.
Therefore, I wanted to give a public apology to my husband for not giving him the credit of thinking fast and saving our home. In attempt to inform everyone at one time of what had happened earlier in the day, I missed very crucial facts.
So thank you, my hero husband, for your courage and quickness.
Because of you, we are able to sleep in our own beds tonight.
Another note, our side gate is usually locked, but last night it was open. If it had been locked, Dave would not have been able to run around to the back of the house and use the hose to put the fire out. Again, so thankful we are safe.