So we were in Chicken's room, and they were a little wound up. Hubby actually mentioned at one point that it smelled a little like smoke up there. It was pretty cold on Christmas eve so there were lots of fires (appropriately in fireplaces) so it didn't seem that weird. He had just moments before closed the blinds that look out over the garage. We read a little to the kids and then they decided they didn't want to sleep in what they were wearing. About that time, there was banging on our front door. Like urgent banging. I don't know what I thought. Maybe that the out-of-town relatives were stopping by our house afterall. That someone just had over zealous knocking? So I went downstairs while Hubby put the kids in Buns' room as that's where they wanted to nap.
Turns out it was the across-the-street neighbors' son who had been installing a new Christmas car stereo and noticed the smoke. Hubby and I were trying to recollect all the specific details later that night but it's kind of a blur. He must have heard what the neighbor said so he ran downstairs to investigate. I must have seen it through the kitchen window to know that it was bad enough that we needed to get the kids out. So I ran upstairs yelling at them. Later, Chicken told me that she thought they were in trouble. I think that's kind of funny that she didn't realize my tone was different from when she's in trouble (and probably different from anything she's heard before). They were jumping on Buns' bed--she in underpants and him in a Pull-Up. After I opened the door I told them to go downstairs. I grabbed jammy pants for them from her room, which already had smoke coming in.
Meanwhile, the guys from across the street were smart enough to ask for the keys to Hubby's car to move it out of the driveway. I guess Hubby told them where to look but they needed help. After I got the kids headed downstairs I pointed to where the keys usually are. The kids were, of course, slow moving. Once we got downstairs, there were already people gathering in the yard, on the sidewalk, etc. I went back in because Hubby was yelling to get the fire extinguisher. I went to the pantry and realized we already didn't have power to the house (the breaker box was in the garage). So gave that to him. Randomly grabbed my phone but oddly not my purse. I looked and someone was holding Buns. I didn't see Chicken so I went back in to make sure she hadn't followed me in. Maggie was still inside and I yelled at her to come on after I saw that Chicken was, indeed, outside. In underpants. Got pj pants on them and walked them 2 doors down to our neighbors who also have small kids. I figured they had shirts for our kids, and the kids wouldn't think it weird to be visiting.
About a million and one neighbors were congregating. Multiple folks had called 911. Seemed like it took forever for the trucks to get there. Ended up being 3 that responded. I guess one lucky thing is that we have a fire hydrant at the end of our driveway. By this time, the fire had already crossed the breezeway from the garage to the house. I can't tell you how helpless it feels to watch that. I don't know what I was thinking. I mean, lordy, we've had enough crap happen in our lives to turn me into expecting the worst but somehow I still never do. I was surprised when the actual house was on fire.
The in-laws came to get the kids and Maggie. They were just matter-of-fact; "Grandma, the garage is on fire." She took them home while we just hung out watching the firemen. We had to stay out another hour after the burning stopped. Hubby, my best friend, and I walked through with the FD Chaplain. There was smoke damage everywhere. Soot and ashes on everything everywhere. The four rooms closest to the garage were most damaged--both the kids' rooms, the laundry room, and kitchen. Just like with my brother's house after the hurricane, it was weird what looked fine and what didn't. Like in the kitchen, it was so hot that the plastic flouresent light covers melted and warped and fell onto the island below. But right next to the island sat the two bites of banana that Buns hadn't eaten at lunch. So, yeah, lots of damage. Not livable.
The night of the fire the insurance contacted us and hooked us up with folks to board up and tarp the missing windows, wall, roof. They did that yesterday. And we also got the textile people in. They'll have an emergency cleaned stash of our clothes ready by Monday. The rest of the clothes, curtains, linens, rugs, and stuff will be cleaned if they weren't burned. There will obviously be irrepairable damage to things like upholstered furniture and mattresses and toys and things. But things like our dining room table will be able to be treated for the smoke.
It will be a long road. We'll be staying at my brother's for a few more days while they're out of town. Then we'll probably be in an extended stay hotel for most of January. Oddly enough, we'll be able to house sit for about 5 weeks at the in-laws' from the end of January to beginning of March. By then, hopefully we'll have a better idea of when we'll be back in.
I haven't really been that emotional yet. Just more in crisis management mode. Obviously the most important things got out. It's kind of funny how you theoretically talk about what you'd take if there were a fire. Apparently nothing matters to me expect the living things and my phone. Go figure. I still can't believe I didn't just grab my whole purse. Or shoes that were right by the front door. So strange.
I'm sad to report that my big blue chair that has been with me for so long and through so much (I wrote about it before when talking about Buns) was for sure a casualty. However, the chair that my brother and I were rocked in as babies will be fine. It was in the corner of Chicken's room. The worst corner of the fire--there aren't walls. And yet that chair just had one tiny charred mark at the bottom. Also, in her room? Her gallery wall was destroyed--except for one needlepoint that my grandmother made. I tell ya...