I don't know why, but I feel nervous about writing this.
Maybe because it's still pretty fresh, and everything is still very much unsettled, and I am still very much unsettled. Maybe because it's just such a big and important story, and I don't trust myself to do it justice. Or maybe because it's been a while (hello, blog!) and I just feel a little rusty when it comes to writing about personal things.
Or maybe I'm just ridiculously tired and have several other things I could (should?) be doing right now. (Note: this is definitely true.)
But deep down, I think I know I need to write this. It's just...what I do, I guess. I write stuff. It helps me. Maybe writing this will get it out of my head, and I would like to get it out of my head. So it's worth a shot, right?
I think this post is just going to be very...um...story-ish? I just want to throw it all out there, so everyone knows what happened. There are a few things we just don't know yet, at least not officially; so I won't really go there.
Does this intro feel like I'm procrastinating? It kind of does, doesn't it? Told you I was nervous.
So here we go: the story of when my house caught on fire.
It was Friday, December 30. I had spent the last few days lumping around the house with a surprisingly painful case of strep throat. I'd been to the doctor on Thursday and had gotten an antibiotic and was feeling a lot better by Friday morning. Dallin had the week off of work so I got to make a kid-free Costco run that morning, and we were planning on going out on a date that night to make some plans for the coming new year.
Dallin was gone at a physical therapy appointment (his back has been bothering him lately). I was home with all the kids, working on putting away the mountains of laundry we had lying around, while the kids played downstairs.
It was about 2:15. We needed to leave around 2:45 to go to my mom's so she could watch the kids for the evening, so I was about to stop doing laundry to get ready.
I don't remember this very clearly, but I'm pretty sure I heard a weird noise downstairs. I honestly didn't know what it was, but it sounded like maybe something fell or broke. I thought it was worth it to go downstairs and see. On my way down the stairs, the fire alarm went off.
Now, I'll be honest: when the fire alarm went off, my first thought was not "fire." In our old house, the fire alarms would go off at random times...like if someone took a hot shower upstairs without opening the small window and turning on the master bedroom fan (I'm serious). Just the same, I'd never heard the alarms in our new house before, and was curious about what could be going on. I hurried downstairs.
When I got to the kitchen, I could see Parker standing in the short space between the kitchen and the office. He was crying. I went over to him, and could see in the office. There was a small desk in the corner, and on the desk, there was a fire. A surprisingly big fire.
In the space of about three seconds, the following occurred in my head:
There's a fire.
It's a FIRE.
I need a fire extinguisher.
Water? No. Blanket? No.
I need a fire extinguisher.
I don't have a fire extinguisher.
Are you sure? Under the sink? In the laundry room? In the garage?
No. I don't have a fire extinguisher.
Get out of the house.
The door to the garage is right there. I opened it and told the kids to get out. They were scared (obviously), but Maddy and Parker ran out right away. The garage door was open to the outside; I told them to stay in the driveway.
Charly was standing over by Amelia's high chair, in the family room. She was crying and she wouldn't run that way. I hurried over to the high chair, unbuckled Amelia, grabbed Charly's hand, and ran to the front door.
When I got to the front door, I paused. Did I need to grab anything? I didn't entertain the thought for long. The truth is, I was still looking for a fire extinguisher and I knew if that was going to work, I needed it fast. Also, what exactly would I do with the kids while I ran back to grab...whatever? No, I just left.
There was a landscaping truck parked outside our house.
"Do you have a fire extinguisher?!" I yelled. Either they didn't hear or understand me, or I just seemed like a crazy lady, but they didn't answer right away.
I had my phone in my pocket (thank goodness); I pulled it out and dialed 911. I actually dialed 911 because I had an actual emergency in my house. I'd never done that before. With the phone to my ear, I ran to my neighbors' house. In the meantime, two of the landscapers had gone into the house to see if there was anything they could do.
"911, what is your emergency?"
"There's a fire in my house!"
I honestly don't remember the details of the next minute. I know she asked first if everyone was out of the house, and I said yes, I was sure. I know she asked for my address. I know I gave it to her. I know I banged on my neighbors' door and they didn't answer right away. I know the landscapers ran out and said "It's too late. Is anyone in there?" and I know I said "No." I know my neighbors' son-in-law (whom I'd never met) came out and I told him there was a fire. He asked if anyone was inside. No, everyone is out. Yes, I'm sure.
And then the dispatcher told me help was coming, and I could hang up. I didn't think you were supposed to hang up with 911.
"When are they going to be here? How long will it take?"
"They are on their way. They are coming as fast as they can."
"Okay, but...how long will it take?"
"They are coming as fast as they can."
And then...it was pretty quiet. The landscaping truck drove away, and I don't know where my neighbors' son-in-law went, and I could see black smoke coming from my house. From the back and out the vents. Black smoke.
My kids were, well, freaked out. Understandably, right? I kept telling them that we were safe, and that help was coming. We stood on the corner. They didn't even have shoes on. And I said we should say a prayer, and they folded their arms and were as well-behaved for a prayer as they'd ever been.
"Heavenly Father, we're so thankful that we are all safe. Please help us to stay safe. Please help the firemen to get here fast. Please protect our house."
And then we were just there on the corner. I kept praying out loud. The truth is, the fire was right by some, well, volatile things. My head went to gas lines (we have a gas stove in our kitchen, for example, and it is not far at all from the office) and to the water heater (separated from the fire by only a bathroom). I half-expected to hear an explosion at any second. "Don't let it hit the gas," I prayed. "Don't let it hit the gas." (The truth is, I know absolutely nothing about fires OR gas lines, and I don't even know if that's a thing that could happen, but it's where my mind was and I was terrified thinking about it.)
And then, miraculously soon, we heard sirens.
"Do you hear that? They're coming! They're coming to help us and they're almost here!" I said it for the kids, but I needed to hear it just as much.
Hurry hurry hurry hurry hurry hurry.
A police officer drove up first, right along the small side street where we were standing. I waved him down and pointed to the house. He jumped out.
"Is anyone in the house?"
"No, everyone is out. I am 100% sure."
And then the truck came. You guys, that truck. It was...my favorite thing in the world.
I didn't really watch what they did after that. I didn't really care to. I walked across the street with the kids, trying to get them as far away from it all as possible. On the way, I called my mom.
"Mom, I need you to come to my house right now. There's a fire. Everyone is okay and we are out of the house, but I need to get the kids away from here."
"Okay, I'm coming."
Some neighbors, whom I had never met, came over to us and offered to let us wait in their house, a few houses down from ours. I agreed. We went inside; they had plenty of toys to keep the kids busy, and it was blissfully removed from everything. I needed to call Dallin.
I tried his cell...5 or so times. Of course he couldn't answer. He was at his appointment.
After making a wrong guess about the office he was at, I remembered that the clinic was owned by a friend of his. So I googled that friend's name and "physical therapy" and found the list of locations. Thankfully, Dallin had told me it was in Chandler, so I called and the receptionist answered.
"Hi my husband is in an appointment there and I need to talk to him right now it's an emergency."
"Dallin you need to come home right now. There's a fire. We're all okay but there was a fire."
"I'm on my way."
The rest is all very blurry, but I remember specific little things.
Parker getting excited about our neighbors' toys and playing like nothing had happened.
Amelia's ridiculously messy face.
My mom running up the street to me; her giving me a hug.
The slightly awkward feeling of bringing my mom into my neighbors' house.
The police officer asking me questions.
Dallin giving me a hug and telling me I did such a good job (aka the first time I cried).
First hearing the words "smoke damage" and remembering that that was a thing.
The first people from the ward showing up at my neighbors' house.
My mom taking all the kids to her car.
The many (many) people lined up on the street, just watching everything play out.
The first text (from a number I didn't recognize) asking what size clothes my kids wear.
Telling the story to the fire inspector and then needing to call my mom to make sure she had all the kids. (Did I really get them all?)
A fireman coming up to me and asking "Is this your house?" and then putting his arm around me.
I eventually moved over to my next door neighbors' house. My dad showed up. Lots of people were calling and texting; I wasn't really responding to anyone. I sat on the couch with a blanket wrapped around me and called to check on the kids at least 3 more times. Dallin called the insurance. Our bishop came to check in with us and help however he could. People from my ward bought bags of clothes for all of us. My mom called to ask if they could set up a GoFundMe. My sister showed up to take me shopping. I spent...a lot of money, buying...well, a lot of stuff.
Because really, we had nothing. No toiletries, no clothes, no underwear, no shoes (I had been wearing shoes but the kids had not). No toys, no books, no bedding, no phone chargers, no key for our car, no food. Just...nothing. We couldn't get into a hotel (it was a holiday weekend, after all) but were thankfully able to stay with my brother-in-law and his wife, where we've been for the past 10 days.
And really, that's the story. There's obviously a lot more to be said, about the damage sustained and about the help we've been given and about the lessons I've learned (so far) from the whole thing. There's definitely a lot more to say about what will happen going forward, how my kids are handling it, and what restoration is going to look like.
But for now, maybe we'll just stop here.
There was a fire in my house. And we're all okay.
That's enough, right?
And guess what? I do feel better.
Thanks for reading, friends.