Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fire and Ice

Off a snow shoeing...

The Neighbors House Before...
Some of you may have noticed my lack of blogging, or emailing, or commenting on your blogs as of late. Or not. Part of this has to do with the gigantic snow storm that hit us the week before Yule. Part of it due to a fire. We had almost two feet of dry, fluffy snow turn Portland into a Nordic wonderland. Temps hovered around 20 degrees f. during the day. We broke out the snow shoes and went on treks through the neighborhood, marvelled at how a snow fall can utterly transform the landscape into something magical. It was all very Currier and Ives, we were cozy in our house, a fire in the grate, gluhwien in my cup, a fully stocked larder of Yuletide goodies to eat.

Then the ice storm came and massive limbs off of the Doug fir trees started crashing down, ripping out power lines. Small trees fell over from the weight of snow and ice. Roofs caved in, thousands lost power. The falling trees blocked roads, and gave the already harried power company more work to do. Meanwhile the roads became passable only for those with tire chains and four wheel drives(like we have on our truck).
I know, people who live in Michigan and Oslo deal with huge amounts of snow every winter, but this is Portland Oregon. Snow down here in the valley is a rare thing, so when we do get blessed with the stuff the city shuts down, and everyone goes snow mad.
We had a wonderful Solstice/Yule evening. The Hubbinator, the cats, and Myself. Many dear and wonderful friends called to send their greetings of the season, warm wishes and regards.
The snow fell softly outside on the longest night of the year...

So fast forward to Christmas morning. The exact opposite of the serene solstice..
"Wake up! Wake up! The neighbors house is on fire!!!!" Iam being shaken awake by the Hubby.
Jolted out of a deep dream I awake to see my neighbors 5 year old boy, dressed in his pyjamas, standing by the bed, wide eyed and scared. Oh crap. They run back out of the bedroom. I follow.
When I enter the living room I see the neighbor's two boys sitting on our sofa, watching their house burn.. I don't know how to put it any other way. The teenage son is on his cel phone calling family. He sits next to his little brother, holding him. The adults are all outside watching in stunned horror, when I hear the fire engines roaring down the hill. Lucky we have a fire house just blocks away.
"Our kitties!" cries the 5 year old...He looks at me with those big eyes, and starts to cry..all I can do is hold him, and tell him he's safe..Try to distract him..."Look at the brave firemen fighting the fire.. watch them being so brave!" Brave like he is right now..His brother tells me their Aunt is on the way to get them..I go and round up some warm sweaters, some snow boots for their bare feet. Their Aunty arrives, and whisks them away to their Grandmothers up the road.

I see my Hubby and the Father of the boys jump in to help a lone fireman drag a huge fire hose to the fire hydrant half a block away..the snow makes it hard for them to walk.....the trucks hoses didn't charge at first..the flames leap higher...everyone looks panicked...Then the hoses leap to life, the flames are belching from the windows of the house as the water hits them. The black smoke turns to steam...

People come and go from my house. Endless cups of coffee. Shock, tears. Hugs. Trying to comfort our friends...making sure everyone has what they need..
I stand in my kitchen, the drama playing out before me drags me back to a cold, icy winter night. I was 12, standing in a sleet storm watching our house burn..the wind whipping our night clothes, the ice stinging our skin. The flames reflected in my Mother's tears..
The blaze beautiful in it's fury..Our lives changed in an instant that stormy night so long ago..

Iam snapped back to the present when I see our neighbor standing in the blackened door of his house. In his arms he carries the still, limp form of their beloved calico cat. He carries her out, and lays her down gently beside the two blanket covered bodies of their other cats.
Oh hell...I know he's heartsick..but he's being so strong..

The rest of the morning passes.. By early afternoon the fire is out for sure, the house is boarded up, the family is safe. They head out to relatives houses, thanking us for our help. We assure them it was nothing, it's what you do for folks when something like that happens.
The entire event brought up some old scary memories for me, but showed me that when the shit hits the fan I know I will respond calmly. My Hubby, well, he was amazing. I know that our Neighbors have a long road ahead....they lost their home, their beloved pets..They are rich with family who care, and friends. That's so important now...
How did it happen?
Our neighbors had just opened their gifts on Christmas morning. When someone heard the electric breaker box trip with a loud "Click!" Within in minutes the house was engulfed in smoke and fire. They had enough time to get themselves and their dog out. They tried to save the cats but they ran back in, and by then the heat and smoke was overwhelming...
The fire inspector suspects an overloaded power cord...but who knows for sure. The space that it started in is a total pile of charred mess..
So, go and hug your beloveds, check up on all your electrical, and make sure you have a plan. It can save lives.


Alison said...

Oh Heidi that is such a dreadful thing. How sad for your neighbors! I started crying when you mentioned their poor cats... I had no idea that you had also had a housefire in your past, while it is good to know how we'll react in such a situation, I grieve for that family, and for the shattering of the peaceful joy of Yuletide.

Hugs to you all...

paula said...

heidi, heidi, heidi - just catching up. Oh wow, how truly horrific. House fires really scare me - we just don't seem to understand fire like they used to. Your poor neighbours, poor you and the cats...I don't want to think.
It’s been a bit of a full on yuletide - I don't know if you heard the George, our very ancient coaching inn, formerly a monastery, went up in flames and was completely destroyed the night before Christmas Eve - we're all devastated by this as its the reason for Hatherleigh becoming the market town it has. We celebrated our marriage feast there too.
I hope you feel a little recovered. All my love to you.