Our house was completely gutted by a very destructive fire on Friday February 11th at about 10:30 pm. The front section of the main part of our house was built in the 1870s and the rest of it was built in the 1940s. The addition was a large partially finished area in the back where we had all of our music equipment. At the time of the fire we lived in the house and worked in the addition. The fire started in our bedroom and was most like caused by a faulty lamp, although there also happened to be a candle burning at the time. The candle was the kind that comes in its own glass container. There are several theories as to how the fire actually started, but the strongest physical evidence we have actually points to the lamp.
I was in the addition when the fire started. Doug had left that morning to do a band tour, and our roommate John was at a concert. I went into the house to use the bathroom and heard the fire alarm in the hall. I had been out in the addition for about 45 minutes. When Doug goes on tour I usually immediately clean the house and put fresh sheets on the bed so that I can have at least a few nights without cat hair in the bed. To make it extra nice I lit an aromatherapy candle and shut the door to keep the cats out so I would be inhaling a pleasant fragrance instead of cat hair. Although I love my cats very much, I didn’t love how hairy our bed would get with both of them in it all the time.
So after hearing the alarm, my first thought was of the candle, and not the old lamp on our headboard which had recently been acting a little strange. I totally forgot about that. I saw the flames coming out of the crack at the top of the closed door and called 911 immediately. While I was on the phone, our cat Ted came up and started meowing to tell me that he was concerned so I picked him up and took him out to the car. Then I thought I would go back in and try to find Seymour. Maybe he would realize that he needed to come out from wherever it was that he was hiding.
When I got to the car I saw that the grass was on fire outside our bedroom and it made me realize that it was really spreading pretty quickly. I was already kind of in a state of panic I guess because when I saw the grass on fire outside of our bedroom I ran back into the addition to get my bass, which was in the addition, instead of Seymour in the house. Actually I was freaking out. But I could see that it was probably too dangerous to go all the way back inside at this point. I was still on the phone with 911 during all of this. They were being kind of annoying and not acting at all like it was a big emergency. It was almost like they thought I was faking it or something.
Finally they got all of the information from me and just as I was heading back out of the addition with my bass a man suddenly ran into the addition from the house and asked if there was anyone else left in the house. He said he saw the fire and was worried that there might be people inside so he busted down the front door. I told him that I was leaving immediately and that I had already called the fire department and I thanked him for being concerned and then he ran out the back door and into the night. I have no idea who he was, or where he came from, but he definitely wasn’t from the fire department.
The fire trucks began to arrive as I was backing out of the driveway with Ted and my bass. They came about a minute after I finished calling them so somebody from the street must have called before I did. I drove into the neighborhood around the corner and parked. Several times I got out and went back to my front yard to look or to be available in case somebody wanted to ask me something but I just couldn’t bear to watch it for more than a few seconds. I’d go back to the car and try to go back out again, just to be there, but I couldn’t do it. I was really freaking out. There were flames coming out of all of the windows. It was too difficult to watch, so I finally gave up and went back and sat in the car around the corner. Ted was all worried so I stayed with him in the car.
Some of this I remember quite vividly, but a lot of it is a blur. I think I was probably in shock. Our neighbor Gerry came out to the car and asked me if I wanted to wait inside her house, and at first I didn’t want to bother her, but then I realized I was probably completely irrational at this point and that I should just do whatever anyone suggested. I am so grateful that she invited me in. We didn’t really know Gerry and Larry other than to say hello over the fence, but they turned out to be the best neighbors ever.
It was somehow a little easier to watch the firemen’s progress from inside their kitchen than it had been from outside on the sidewalk. It was also easier to watch once the fire was actually beginning to be put out. In the newspaper it said that 85 firemen had been there and it took 40 minutes to get the fire under control and that it did far more damage than I even knew our house was worth.
I called Doug in North Carolina and later John stopped in. It must have been awful for John to drive up our street and see all of the fire trucks and all of the flames. But he was very calm and comforting. The Red Cross came by and asked me a bunch of questions and told me all of the things they could do to help if I needed it, and then they gave me a gift credit card worth $200. I told them I would be okay without it but they said it was pretty much their policy to do this because I would need to buy clothes and food and this would cover me for a few days. I hadn’t even thought about all of that, or the fact that I had neglected to grab my wallet on the way out. The fire inspector came by and asked a bunch of questions as well. I realize that none of this sounds all that strange but the whole thing was unbelievably weird. It was worse than any nightmare I’d ever had in my entire life.
That night Ted and I stayed in Gerry and Larry’s guest bedroom. Gerry set up a litterbox and food for Ted. They were both so nice to me. I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am for all of their help. I also felt incredibly pathetic, needing so much help from anybody. The room was lovely, but I don’t think I got any sleep that first night. Ted and I were both pretty much crying the entire night. And we were both very worried about Seymour.