Wednesday, February 4, 2009

House Fire Of 2007

I had - well I wrote the day the house burned down from the hotel I was staying in. I had all of that stuff on my JS journal - it's all gone - whoosh, buh-bye.

It was a Sunday morning. At the time, Anthony was living with me as well as Michael and of course my son from Friday to Monday. Things - concerning Anthony - were much better than. He hadn't copped the huge attitude and wasn't doing drugs, though I figure he was probably smoking the dope.

Anyway, I had rented a Rug Doctor the day before and was trying to get the carpets finished in my old house before the time frame for having that machine elapsed and I had to take it back to Fry's. I was busy getting the living room done, when Anthony came strolling out. Now, I may not remember everything to exact detail as I had written it that day.

Reason being because that day is basically a blur in my memory. I remember the things that happened - but it was such a mind-blowing event and the hugeness of what was going on - never thought I would ever have to go through something like that.

Anthony said to me: "Ben, there's smoke in your bedroom". I couldn't possibly fathom why there would be smoke in there. I walked back there and opened the door. The smoke was so thick, you could barely see anything in the room. I did not see any fire at that point, but it was obvious something bad was going on and I wanted everyone out of the house immediately. Told Anthony to get out, and then started banging on the bathroom door loudly and impatiently, yelling at Michael - who was in the shower, to get out, and get out NOW!! He didn't understand what was going on, I just kept banging and yelling to get out of the shower immediately - the house is on fire, get out.

The word fire got Michael moving to the point he only put on a pair of pants, burst open the bathroom door and I was basically pushing him down the hallway. This was an old mobile home, and if know the structure and composite of those things, they burn FAST when they catch on fire. You don't have time to do anything, just get out of it and save your life. Once I knew all the humans were out, I started looking for dogs. I couldn't find Comet and I couldn't find the Rottweiler I had just acquired, but I did find Coco, grabbed all 3 leashes, put her on one and then ran out of the house. Don't remember who I handed Coco to, but - I ran back in the house to see what was going on in the bedroom. Oh, I forgot, as soon as I walked in the bedroom and saw smoke, I immediately called 911 and demanded the fire department to get here NOW!!

When I got back to the bedroom, I had plans of saving a few things - things handed down from my ancestors that could not be replaced. No such thing ever happened. As soon as I started walking into the bedroom, one of the walls literally burst open with flames. The instant heat from that intense fire that had been building inside of the walls pushed me back down the hallway. If only I had had a little more time, I could have got a garden hose in there and probably have snuffed the fire before it got to that point. Everything I have written that occured up to this point happened VERY quickly.

I wasn't going to die for an old house that needed to be razed, anyway, or even the thought of losing the things that were so valuable to me, I was fortunate that even in that state of mind, reason took over and told me that trying to save things - and getting burned or killed while doing it - simply wasn't worth it.

It was the middle of July, it was over 110 degrees that day. I did another sweep for the dogs, couldn't find either of the other 2, gave up on it cause the house was filling with smoke, and went outside.

I want to note something before going on with this story. On a normal Sunday, my son and Michael were sharing a bed and would have been sleeping in that bed at that time of day. That bed was RIGHT where the fire burst out of the walls. IF my son and Michael had been sleeping, as they ALWAYS were on Sundays at that time of day, and IF they hadn't woken up in the smoke or the heat in the walls - they would have either died or had been seriously burned. It just so happened that my son left early to go with his mother to church and Michael apparently had wakened when my son left and decided to take a shower. I personally don't believe it chance, I'm a Believer and I know that God had intervened in this situation.

I went outside - had forgotten my shoes and had only a pair of pants on myself - and watched my house burn down. The fire department showed up, it took them a while (probably not very long, in my mind an eternity) to get all their gear on, get the hoses hooked up to the hydrant get in there and start putting out that fire. JUST before they went in, the Rottweiler appeared out of nowhere and started trying to bust down the big window in the living room in an attempt to get out. He was heaving his entire 130 pounds against that window - but we got in there and let him out before he could hurt himself. The smoke inside of there was deadly at that point, not to mention the intense heat, even though it was the front of the house and the fire was raging at the rear of the house.

I was standing out there, in the direct sunlight, as well as Michael and Anthony, for hours. The dogs were burning up - the water from the hoses fighting the fire was enough for them to drink.

Things started happening quickly. Phoenix Fire has their own volunteer resource of people who come out in such situations, assess the situation and figure out what needs to be done to help you out. In this case, the gave me the number for the Red Cross and told me they would help. I had no place for the dogs - the Humane Society came and took all of them away. I gave up one of the dogs - the Rottie - as I found out that he is a one-dog only type of animal. He doesn't like other dogs and will attempt to kill them. My other 2 dogs - Coco and Comet - were put up for 7 days I think it is. That is the limit they will take them. But, it's free, it takes that burden off of you and you don't have to lose your dogs if you can find a place that to live in that will take them.

The Red Cross showed up with a force of people and assessed the situation themselves. Yup, a total loss. Everything, including every piece of clothing for me, Michael and Anthony. Caleb had a few things there, but not that much. Do you need a hotel? YES. They set up a hotel for a couple of nights if I recall correctly, and then they gave me a debit card with $500 on it to buy food and buy new clothing.

They took the immediate pressure off of me - I was broke and I didn't have any money for hotels and food. I don't remember everything, to be honest. Maybe a few readers that were reading when I went through it will. I know that my dad basically saved me - he sent me 10 grand which I used for a myriad of purposes, including have the house removed from the property. My company has a fund for people going through an emergency and I received 5k from them as well. I think I stayed at hotels for at least a couple of weeks or something like that before finding an apartment and moving into it - with both dogs. No, it wasn't that long, less than 2 weeks. I found a place that would accept my dogs and lived there for 6 plus months while I was having a new house put on the property.

My co-workers - like all of them - gave me everything from gift cards - very generous gift cards at that - furniture - all kinds of stuff. I received a huge outpouring from the church I had been going to. Basically I was given a new lease on life - I was working a full time job and maybe would have been able to find a place, yes, but to replace everything without all the help I received? No.

It was both one of the worst and best times of my life. Bad - lost things that can never be replaced. Good - the huge outpouring of help from people - many people I didn't even know - restored my faith in the giving nature of the human race.

The after-effect? I can smell smoke when no-one else around can. What's that smell? I smell smoke. Everyone around me looks at me strange. Still to this day.
The month or so after the fire I had horrid nightmares. I would wake up in the middle of the night, sweating, even screaming. I remember going to the bathroom one night, opening the door and seeing flames. There were no flames there, but my eyes saw flames. I kept seeing fire everywhere. Counsellors told me this was normal and would probably last a month or so, and then would dissipate. It lasted longer than a month, but it did eventually dissipate and the horrific nightmares went away. The visions of flames everywhere also subsided and life slowly got back to normal.

3 comments:

  1. What a terrible experience this must have been! I'm so sorry about your loss. We all have some keepsakes that are irreplaceable, and that is the worst loss of all. How wonderful that your family and friends came to your aid; that was a testament of their loyalty and devotion. A man with true friends is never poor! Glad you and your son survived!

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  2. God bless you Ben, i am so sorry you had to go through this.

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  3. UGH!!!!

    That one was below the belt. I cannot imagine.

    Bobby

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