April 12th will be 6 months since we lost our home and just about everything in it in our house fire, I am finally able to share what we have gone through. This post will be the first of many as we slowly get our life back to a new normal. Thank you for visiting.
The Start of Our Story
You hear about people losing their home and belongings in a house fire, and you don’t really know what it is like but you feel bad then you move on. Until it is you.
That is how it was for us this past October. We lost our house and just about everything in it (minus a few photos and our Christmas decorations) on Friday, October 12, this past year. It sounds cliche’ but the day was like any other. Roger was working at his seasonal job at a local winery, and I had worked a little but had to get Zak (my grandson) from preschool by 12:45. I actually left earlier than normal that day as I had to stop at the store to get something for my oldest son. I decided to go to the Dollar General in Montour Falls because it was kind of on my way to get Zak instead of heading into Watkins Glen then over to his school. When I arrived at Dollar General I had a phone call from our youngest, Abbey, who was living in White Plains at the time, but the service wasn’t great in the store and the call dropped. I tried to text her, call her again and nothing so I gave up and finished getting what I needed. Then my brother tried to call me but when I went to answer he wasn’t there, then my oldest son called me and it dropped. I moved up in line and then the phone rang again and it was my oldest and the call connected!
He was so calm and asked me, “Mom, is everything at your house ok?”. To which my answer was it was when I left a little while ago. Why? So he said he heard from my niece who is in high school that someone’s home up our way had an explosion or something and it was on fire. So I said, “Oh ok, well let me go pick up Zak at school then I will go up and look.” Aaron said, “No Mom, I will go get Zak you need to go up and look now.” So I paid for my small purchase and got out into the car and called Abbey back and in the calmest voice said, “Abbey, I have to put you on speaker cause our house might be on fire and I have to go look”. She was full of questions and I didn’t have any answers sadly. We hung up and I drove back to the house.
Looking back it felt like it was taking me forever to make that 8-10 minute drive back up the hill. I kept thinking it can’t be our house, I just left from there not more than 1/2 hour ago. But as I got closer I saw the Montour Falls fire trucks filling up their water trucks about a mile or so from our house. The closer I got I could see the smoke billowing across Route 414 and I was trying to figure out if that was approximately in the line of where our house would be. Then I turned onto our road as it is like a road you come off of 414 to, then if you go down past our house you can get back onto 414.
I past 4 houses on the right as there are none on my left-hand side, just trees and then a field. But when I approached the 5th house, the house before ours, I couldn’t get any farther. There were so many fire trucks, rescue trucks, hoses, firefighters and more. I parked on the side of the road and everything was shaking (body wise that is). It was definitely our house.
I couldn’t figure out my Mom’s phone number no matter how hard I tried. I called my 2nd oldest and started to say “Our house is on fire”…but he interrupted me and said, “I know Mom, I am on my way up.” Then I called my best friend who lives in Missouri, and from what I remember I was frantic and said Heidi, our house is on fire. She tried to calm me, but my insides were still shaky and I remember she said it would be ok and she loved me and to keep her updated, at least that is what I remember. Thinking back I wonder what I thought she could do? But it was wonderful to hear her familiar, calming voice.
It was so surreal watching the smoke billow out of our house while all of the firefighters were busy suiting up or already battling the fire. My son Ethan showed up and a guy came to him and said he was the one that saw the house was on fire when he was driving by on the main road and had called 911.
Our front door to the living room for some reason was unlocked so he had opened it and one of our dogs was there, but frightened and scared. They coaxed her out but then she took off. For some reason, at the time I thought it was Lil’ Anne. I am not sure why because she normally hung out in our bedroom which was at the other end of the house. The two last dogs of the five we had and they were 11 years-old. So I was pretty sure the other one, Miley, was the one that we lost in the fire as they hadn’t seen her.
My parents showed up, my oldest son and Zak who was 3 at the time, and then my sister, nephew, and brother-in-law. There were a total of 8 fire departments on the scene. Once I had gotten a hold of myself I didn’t cry again until I laid in bed that night at my sister’s house but more about that later.
The firemen were trying to figure out what caused the fire and at the time the only thing we could figure out was possibly it was our inside backlight in the back room. Mainly because you could tell the worse damage was our kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and then on the second floor the attic and hallway.
More or less that is where the fire was the hottest. If it wasn’t burnt out, it was melted or charred. It was a cool morning that day so I had shut the front living room window. I was told if I hadn’t the fire would have gone right through worse than it had.
The hardest part of the fire was in the roof areas. There were a lot of beams above the ceilings, and part of it might have been the fact that it was a 1800s farmhouse. So the beams were very old and very large. It felt like forever before the fire was totally out.
During this time they did find our other dog in our bedroom at the foot of our bed. So they asked if we had someone there that could bury her, which we did as our 2 sons offered to do so. Again we thought it was Miley but later found out it was Lil’ Anne because she had a marking on her shoulder that was mentioned that evening. So Miley was out there somewhere and our neighbors offered to keep an eye out to see if she showed back up.
(Miley did come back to the house on Sunday morning. She lived with us at our sons for 2 weeks but we had to have her put to sleep as she got sick. The veterinarian told us she had suffered from smoke inhalation and that was why she got so sick. We still miss them both.)
The American Red Cross did come to see Roger and I. They gave us information with what they could do to help and told us they would be able to offer us $200 to help out the next morning. Since we had a place to stay they didn’t need to help us with that. We also had insurance which was a blessing and again I will be covering information about insurance in another post.
The firemen allowed us to go in when they were done but cautioned us that parts of the house were not even available to go in (like our bedroom, bathroom, laundry room area). Part of the ceiling in our kitchen fell in which blocked our bedroom so we were not able to go in that area of the house. We could, however, stand in a doorway and look into the kitchen which then I could also see out to the backyard.
In the image above the upper left photo is looking from the living room door to the kitchen. The door you kinda see outlined was actually a pantry cupboard that burned out, our actual back door was to the right of the stove which you can’t really see under the debris. (the oven is actually in the second image upper right).
In the lower right image, I am standing upstairs in our hallway in front of where the ‘attic’ door was. It was like a crawl space. The fire burnt it out so I could see down into our kitchen from upstairs and the lit doorway goes to our bedroom. Actually, our king size bed was under all of that debris as our bedroom ceiling/roof had caved in from the fire and water.
But enough pictures for now. I have many more as I wanted to document things in different rooms so I didn’t forget about them.
Once we had gone through the house, Rog and I drove to Walmart to get toiletries, clothing and some clean shoes as ours were wet and dirty. Shopping for clothes and the things we needed was very hard. In your mind you are thinking, “oh I have that at home” but then reality hits and you realize you don’t. It was like being in a fog. Once we were done there we went to my sisters where some of the family was to have pizza and stay the night at my sister’s and brother-in-law’s house.
I started making a list of things I knew we had lost room by room. I didn’t know how the insurance company would handle it but wanted to make sure while some things were still fresh that I jotted them down.
It started to get late and everyone had left so we decided it was time to go to bed. Almost 12 hours after I was notified of the fire. The outpouring on Facebook was overwhelming, between the prayers, thoughts, posts, and donations were wonderful, yet overwhelming.
And as I laid my head down on the comfortable pillow, in a bed much smaller than our own (but comfy) I cried myself to sleep.