Thursday, July 05, 2007

When Fire Doesn't Work

Sarah and I sat on our balcony last night waiting for what little fireworks we could see. As we waited we noticed a neighbor in a nearby house watering down everything in her yard. The house, trees, flowers, car, street, power pole...everything. Sarah made a comment that she was probably being overly cautious but I felt for the woman. As the people above us carelessly spilled sparkler all over the bushes next to our apartment the old fear of fire crept to the surface. I've been that way since my apartment went up in flames in February of 2000.
I was living in Columbia, SC. I went to bed close to midnight and started hearing strange noises. I looked up and noticed that the storage closet on my balcony was on fire. I called 911, put some clothes on, grabbed my wallet and car keys and headed out the door. A few hours later I was homeless. A lady from my church just happened by and she took care of me until I checked into the hotel that the Red Cross provided. The next morning a man from church picked me up at the hotel and we went to assess the damage. The fire travelled up from the closet and into the ceiling. Since there was no firewall it went to each end and started ravaging the building. All 8 units were ruined but, oddly enough, my section had the most roof left than anyone. We were allowed to go in so a bunch of folks from the church showed up to help me salvage. The apartment was knee deep with wet insulation, burned boards, and roofing materials. A group of ladies took my clothes out of the closet and cleaned them for me. All the furniture was ruined. All of my pictures were in a plastic container in a closet that sustained no damage at all. All in all I lost about half of my stuff including all of my art. I had no insurance. We moved what could be salvaged to some folks garage and the next few weeks I spent as much time as I could over there cleaning it all up. I stayed with folks in the church and they treated me like a son. The previous church I had left under less than great circumstances sent me a check for almost $5000. The church I was serving in at the time also gave me money, food, clothes and who knows what else. I also got a new bed from the Red Cross and a bunch of gift cards for Kmart from a local charity. I eventually got into a new apartment and things began to return to normal. But I wasn't ok.
I guess I had what amounts to Post Traumatic Stress. I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking my apartment was on fire. I would have to walk around the apartment and check everything before I could go back to sleep. Every time an emergency vehicle with a siren went by I would freak out on the inside. It took a ong time to get over it but I did. When my parents went through the awful ordeal of being trapped in their attic while the house flooded during Hurricane Ivan I was able to share with my dad about the after effects. He was suffering from it too.
So, I'm very cautious around fire. I'm not freaky scared of it but I am very, very aware and watchful when there's a hazard of fire around. I didn't get a hose and douse the apartment building on the 4th of July...but it's a great idea.
And by the way, they never concluded what started the fire. Their best guess was a faulty wire. Great...something I can't watch for.

No comments: