Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fire (Updated) (and another update)

Haven't posted in a while. The gaming continues, while I monitor the daily events. I want to scream about many happenings, and non-happenings, but find the impetus just isn't there.

The past two days have been very emotionally draining. Late Sunday night, while my son and his girlfriend were out with friends, their house burned. As my son tells it, as they arrived, they saw smoke billowing out from under the eaves. The front door wouldn't open, and was hot, so my son ran around to the back, and found the same situation, plus he broke his key off trying to get the door unlocked. No luck. He ran back around the house to the window to the room where their dogs were, ripped off the screen, and forced the window up. Not a smart thing to do, but understandable given the situation. Immediately hot black smoke began blowing out of the window. He was unable to enter.

Their two dogs, dearly beloved and a major part of the family, perished in the fire. They were, and are, heartbroken. And as a parent, I feel their pain, immensely. For you dog lovers out there, Cera was a Golden Retriever, and Obie was a Chinese Crested. They are sorely missed!


I want to especially offer kudos here to the American Red Cross. Before the firefighters had left, a representative was there, offering a much needed voucher for a stay in a nearby motel (3 days), and a voucher for Wal Mart for enough to pay for some clothes and personal items to fill their immediate needs. Thank you, American Red Cross. This won't get you as much attention (and attendant donations and funding) as would a major disaster, but did serve two purposes. One, it was much needed. Two, my son's girlfriend is now a devout convert to the American Red Cross, and their mission!

Today I, my wife, daughter, son, his girlfriend and her mother, and two other friends of theirs, spend many hours dragging their possesions outside. We sorted out what might be salvaged, and bagged the rest for disposal. Hard, dirty, and heartbreaking work.

I worked for a number of years in the fire/flood restoration business, but this was the first time that someone close to me has suffered a loss from fire. As we sorted through the debris, I was surprised at how much a young couple could accumulate in such a short time, and at the same time, how little. It is also worth noting that most plastics succumbed to the intense heat, but many did not... for instance a pair of calculaters side by side, one melted, the other not. Go figure.

My son and his girlfriend had meant to obtain renters insurance, but had not done so. Again, not real smart, but what's done is done. I'd imagine that insurance will be one of their top priorities when they get another place.

Friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers have all chipped in to help offset the cost of the loss. My son, being a student expecting to graduate sometime next Fall with his Master's, and his girlfriend, who just started a new job today (she graduated this past spring), are financially pressed. Next week is Finals week. This event was not helpful. The major items that were lost were their laptop computer, digital camera, and three guitars (two acoustic and one electric). (Luckily we were able to save the memory card from the camera, and maybe... will find out tomorrow... the data from the laptop hard drive.) If anyone would like to possibly donate some replacement items, I'm sure it would be appreciated. Or hit the Paypal button, all donations to be directed to them. Email for details if you want to know more.

And thanks for listening.

Update, Saturday, 12/18

First, let me say thanks to those who have expressed concern, and have offered prayers, both via email and in the comments. Your concern is much appreciated.

The fire, according to the Fire Department inspectors, began below the main floor, more than likely originating with electrical wiring. This was an older house, and it appeared that there was at one time a coal, oil or wood furnace in the 'basement' area. The 'basement' was simply a hole in the ground under the house, accessible via a crawlway window. There were stairs under there, but they ended at a floor, with no means of exit. It appears that the area had not been used for years. This was a relief to my son, allaying his fears that he had done something to cause the fire. It's bad enough that they lost their dogs, without having to bear the guilt that would have been felt had they been the cause of the fire.

The owner of the house had another rental house almost across the street from this one, and they moved into that yesterday (Friday). Moving in is kind of a misnomer, as they had very little to bring with them. The house is somewhat larger than the burned one, and the rent will be the same. First item on the agenda for my son was to inspect the basement area for any obvious fire hazards, and to determine that smoke alarms were available and working. Last night was their first night there, sleeping on air mattresses. The American Red Cross picked up the tab for an extra night in the motel. Again, thanks to the Red Cross. Without their immediate assistance life would have been much more difficult.

Offers for assistance have been tendered from all of the usual areas. Friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and fellow students have contributed both labor, cash and goods, and tons of moral support. Tomorrow they will receive a used stereo system, and can begin collecting music again. Speaking of music... I'm surprised that no one to date has offered a guitar to my son. It's not like there aren't any unused ones sitting around in the Nashville area :) Still no television, but they can do without that for a while. And no need for a computer yet, as classes don't start again until January. Even so, if you feel the need to help out, there is a long ways to go yet. Any donation, no matter the size, is appreciated.

Anyway, they are doing as well as can be expected, given the emotional trauma they suffered with the loss of the dogs. The material items are just... stuff. Easily replaceable in time.

I spent many hours yesterday and today in the back yard scrubbing their clothes, trying to salvage what we can. still no idea on whether or not we will be successful. Smoked clothes are EXTREMELY difficult to get clean. We'll keep plugging at it.

(As an unannounced update, let me add this... One of the items lost is absolutely irreplaceable. It was a tri-fold room divider/screen, each panel about 18 inches by 6 feet, handmade from oiled oak by my father (now deceased). Doesn't sound like much, and the purpose can be served by any number of cheap items available retail, but the sentimental value is great.)

And again, thanks for listening.

Update, Thursday, 12/29

All things considered, events have gone remarkably well in the recovery from the effects of the fire. My son works during school for the athletic department, tutoring math. He had other work lined up during the Christmas break to enable them to cover expenses, but was unable to follow through with that job. Monetary donations have allowed them to keep above water, for which we are all thankful. Furniture and appliances have been or are being donated. The laptop computer has been replaced, with a newer, better laptop. Still to be replaced are the guitars, bicycle, and digital camera. School starts back in a week or two, so income will be restored.

I have a series of tubs set up in my back yard, where the damaged clothing is processed through washes and rinses with various soaps and chemical compounds, then inside to the washing machine. As weather allows, I anticipate finishing up within a week or so. I have found that it is difficult to wash clothing with chunks of ice. Also, the process must be thorough enough to remove almost all of the soot, lest the washing machine and our clothing pick up an odor. (Side note to self: Idiot! Lamb's wool SHRINKS if dried in an electric dryer! Consolation: the sweater really looks good, if tiny!) To date, I have been able to save a little over half of the clothing, in a serviceable if not pristine condition.

Emotional recovery continues apace. Each day passing decreases the sharpness of the events emotional trauma. They are coping quite well.

Thank you to all who have offered prayers, condolences, good wishes, financial and material donations.

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