The Fire: What's the Damage?

By my estimation, the fire in our house was probably burning for 10-15 minutes. And honestly, I think it was on the low end of that.

I know that seems really fast, but it all happened really fast. I was on the phone with 911 for less than two minutes (I checked in my call history, because the whole thing is very surreal and seeing that I actually made that call showed me that, oh yeah, that did actually happen). And once I got off the phone with them, I never once thought "What is taking them so long?" or "It's been forever since I called!"

I was praying that they'd get there fast, and the reality is, they did. I was pretty surprised by it, actually. (Side note: I didn't remember this at the time, but there is actually a fire station about a mile away from our house. So that might give you an idea of how quickly they were able to get there.)

So let's say 10 minutes. How much damage do you think a fire could do to a (pretty good-sized) house in 10 minutes? Especially when the fire itself was almost entirely contained to one room? Well...


{This is where our kitchen table was. The firemen pushed it to the side and put the chairs up. The room where the fire burned is (was?) on the opposite side of this wall.} 

{Melted blinds in the family room. Also, look under the clock. See the spots on the wall? Apparently the nails in the wall magnetize and attract soot. Every wall in the house looks like this.}

{This is the kitchen cabinet that was farthest away from the fire. The cabinet doors were closed.}

{This is our bed, which is upstairs and on the opposite side of the house as the fire. I think it's interesting that the sides/fronts of everything stayed white; the tops of everything are black. You can also see the spots on the wall again, if you look close.}

{Also in our bedroom. That desk is white; the white rectangle on the top shows you where my laptop was sitting. I think it's also interesting to look at the carpet; everywhere people have stepped is whiter than where they haven't.}

That day, of the fire, I didn't know. I knew that the room the fire was in would be bad, of course. But that room is in the corner of the house, kind of removed from everything else. It's embarrassing to admit, but I kind of thought we'd be back in the house right away, or at least very soon.

What I didn't think about:

  • Smoke damage. News flash: smoke causes a lot of damage. The whole first floor basically has a "smoke line" on the wall. Everything above about the halfway point is just black.

    This has made me think a lot about the incredible health problems that could come from being in a burning house. Honestly, being in that house for even just a minute or two, with all that smoke, would have been extremely dangerous. 
  • Soot. Our a/c apparently kicked in, circulating soot throughout the house. There's a layer of soot on every surface in the house. Every room, every closet, every cabinet, every drawer. It's everywhere.
  • Smell. Obviously, I knew there'd be a smell. But we were in the house just a couple days ago, more than two weeks after the fire, and the smell is still unbearable (for me, anyway). It's much better than it was a week after the fire, when I took these pictures. But it's just pervasive. And it's very distinct. It's not just smoke, like a campfire. It's smoky, but also very chemically and just...gross. And from what we hear, it's very difficult to get out. 
  • Water. I honestly didn't even think about where all the water used to put out the fire would go, but the answer is...everywhere. Apparently there were two inches of water on the entire first floor by the time they were done. So add that damage to the walls and flooring.
  • Carbon monoxide. Dallin was warned, when he walked through the house the night of the fire, that he might walk out with a carbon monoxide headache (he did). We were also told that we shouldn't try to keep any of the kids' toys, because if there is any carbon monoxide residue on them, they could be poisonous. We also had to replace medications (I had been on an antibiotic for strep throat) because of the potential for carbon monoxide. Definitely not something I thought about.

When all is said and done, everything in our house has to go. The walls, the flooring, the windows, the ductwork, the wiring, the plumbing. And of course the contents: the furniture, the toys, the clothes, the decorations, the...everything.

Sure, we have pulled a few things out. My computer, for example. My glasses (I soaked them in vinegar for 3 days and then dish soap for 2 more; I think the smell is gone). However, we've been told to replace everything, even if it seems okay, because it's hard to make sure there won't be any fire-related problems down the road—lingering smell, pieces of soot getting stuck and later dislodged, etc.

I have two main feelings right now when I think about the damage from this fire.

The first is relief. Realizing how fast everything can happen, and how destructive it can be, makes me so grateful that the kids and I got out of the house as quickly as we did. I honestly feel like even one lungful of that smoke could do some big damage. This makes me so grateful that the fire didn't happen at night, and that none of my kids were upstairs or out of reach.

The second is...well, grief. Grief for our beautiful house. Grief for the time and effort I had (just!) put into planning for it and shopping for it. Finding just the right furniture, just the right rug. Finally biting the bullet and buying those curtains because I loved them so much even though they were way too expensive. It was all very us, very ours. And I know it's just stuff. I know I'll probably enjoy doing it again. But for now, it's all gone up in smoke. Literally.

But anyway...hopefully that answers some questions about the damage that was done from our fire. And very hopefully it opens your eyes a bit to just how fast it can happen and how dangerous it can be. 

I'm so grateful for the love and support you've all shown me and my family. Even if it's "just" words, thoughts, or prayers, they mean so much to us.