"Momma! Daddy! The dog pen is on FIRE!!!"
I snatched up the window shade to see into the back yard, and there were flames greedily licking up the building we refer to as our toolshed and dog pen.
|Taken from just outside the back door|
Eva had noticed a strange glow from the side window on the house, looked out, and realized quickly what she was seeing.
Gregg grabbed jeans, t-shirt, and shoes...
Nathan ran out wearing only his long pajama bottoms...
Caleb forgot his shoes.
I immediately called 911 and tried to calm my younger children while confining them to my bedroom. There, they frantically watched from the window until I could try to calm myself and them.
As I talked with the dispatcher, I tried to explain exactly what I was seeing, gave specific instructions the firemen might need to know upon their arrival, and frantically talked about what Gregg and the boys were doing.
I couldn't see Gregg b/c he was behind one of the other storage sheds. Gregg was shutting off the electricity to the out buildings. Caleb was running to the greenhouse trying to get more hoses. (He busted open his toe in the process - no shoes, remember?) Nathan was desperately spraying the hose...and losing the battle quickly.
At some point, Nathan ran inside and grabbed an insulated hunting suit, b/c he said the fire was just too hot for his bare skin.
Everything felt so much like a strange dream. I was amazed at the power of the flames.
|Nathan trying desperately, in vain, to spray the flames...he seemed so small...|
|The flames were beginning to climb nearby trees|
I was scared to death that the gas cans, paint cans, or other flammable items might explode...or that the flames would turn and envelope my precious husband or my sons.
I couldn't keep my legs from shaking...and I kept asking the dispatcher "Where is the fire truck!?!?!" When I told her it felt like it was taking forever, she said we had been on the phone just 3 minutes.
Really?!?! It had to have been longer than that...it sure felt like about 20 minutes already!
Once I yelled at Gregg and heard his voice, and saw both boys, I was okay. Precious material items were burning to ash...but those things could be replaced.
Naturally, I grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos from the back door. (As a photographer, I've begun to see life in pictures, and I know that they really are "worth a thousand words.")
...Miraculously, all of the adult Beagles were able to be rescued as soon as Gregg and the boys got to the shed. They were unable to find the puppy that had been born just a few days earlier...
When Gregg realized how intense the fire was and how quickly it was spreading, he instructed the boys to try their best to keep the adjacent buildings as wet as possible - in hopes to keep the fire from enveloping more of our out buildings.
The intensity of the heat shattered the glass on the door of the building to the left, and melted plastic play equipment and a trashcan inside the door of the building to Nathan's right.
Within approximately 15-20 minutes, the fire trucks arrived. (I'm not quite sure of the timing, b/c I had lost all sense of time.)
When the fire trucks arrived, I felt SUCH RELIEF!!
Gregg and the boys stepped out of the way, and I joined my husband outside.
The firemen immediately sprayed water along the two front buildings and surrounding area, and then attacked the fire. Within just a few minutes, the flames were diminished to smoke and ash.
It took a couple of hours to fully extinguish the fire and complete the inspections. The structure and its contents were deemed a "total loss."
A couple of our nearest neighbors came to see what was wrong and to be sure our family was safe.
One of the main wooden beams along the left-hand adjacent building had been charred, but the fire did not enter that building or the other one. The fire also reached a couple of the nearby trees, but there was no significant damage or spreading of the flames.
Gregg, Nathan, and Caleb had held the flames at bay until the fire department arrived. And the firemen quickly did their job with skill and poise, keeping the damage confined as best they could.
The toolshed contained almost all of Gregg's hand tools, chain saws, lumber, plumbing supplies, etc. And, when one of the firemen asked if there was anything of great value in the building, Gregg told him there was a hand saw that belonged to his great, great grandfather. It had been hanging on a nail on the wall.
I knew how hard this was for Gregg...my heart broke for him...I knew he was thinking of the heirlooms that were surely lost.
Do you know that one of the firemen went into the remains of the building with a flashlight and looked where Gregg told them the handsaw should be hanging? There were hopes to retrieve it.
Indeed, it was still hanging on the nail. It was on the one wall still intact after the fire...The handle was severely charred, but the initials of his great, great grandfather were still visible.
And, although most of the tools and other items can eventually be replaced, there were several other sentimental items and heirlooms lost...things Gregg had planned to pass along to our boys one day. Things like small knives, hand drills, and saws.
Each of the boys' tackle boxes and fishing lures we've bought them over the years...the fishing rod Gregg bought me when were dating...fishing lures that belonged to Gregg's grandfathers and were passed to him...
But, I couldn't help but think of what could've happened...
What if Eva hadn't noticed and we had all gone to sleep? Thirty minutes could have made an enormous difference. Would the flames have reached our home? Would the fire have burned the woods and reached other homes in the night? Could we have lost each other in the night?
When the fire trucks finally left and the night was quiet and dark again, we told the kids that "stuff" can be replaced. It's hard to lose things, but they don't mean anything compared to what we have in each other.
The past few days we've had more inspections and have begun sifting through the ashes for anything that could be salvaged.
|The shattered glass on the door - it was double-paned|
|The charred beam of the nearby out building|
|The kids' toys - melted|
|A few metal items that may be usable again|
|Some hand tools that are sentimental - found in the ashes|
|Where we believe the fire originated...Jan's dog box was along the outside of this wall|
|Shelves, that once held items, burned and dumped their damaged contents below|
|Items literally melted or disintegrated as they hung on the walls|
|I was amazed at how things had been rearranged by the power of the flames |
and by the water used to extinguish those flames
|Nathan found Jan at the furthest corner of the fence in this picture, |
pulled up the fence and dragged her underneath.
The puppy was found along the fence 3 days later, just beyond the gate.
We are almost certain the fire was caused by a light placed inside a dog box where we were attempting to keep a mother beagle and her puppy warm for the night. We think that somehow the light may have gotten knocked down and ignited the straw inside the box.
Three days after the fire, we found the tiny puppy near the edge of the fence...just a few feet from where Nathan had dragged Jan, the mother, underneath the fence in order to rescue her from the flames. There was no way for any of us to know the puppy had been there. Jan was such a good mother...she had tried her best to bring her puppy to safety, and I couldn't help but think how desperately a mother will try to save her children. It's truly a natural instinct.
Now, we begin the process of clean-up, rebuilding, and replacing. Many people don't understand that it really wasn't just a makeshift shed with a few hand tools that burned up. What was inside wouldn't really be of a lot of value to most people...
But, inside that building were the things that my husband used to make memories with our children. Those tools were the items that he used to teach our boys how to be men...how to work with their hands, how to fix things instead of just throwing them away...
They were the tools he attached training wheels to bikes, the saws used to build tree houses, rakes used to build piles of fallen leaves into which the kids could jump....
Those items represented TIME Gregg spends with our children.
Many of those items are things Nathan, our oldest son, has used to learn much about small engines and working with his hands.
So, it's strange not having so much as a hammer to use right now.
Please pray for us as we go about replacing the many things that can be replaced...
And praise God with us for the things we still have that simply can't be replaced - memories, time with each other, and the future.
We are so very blessed!!