When the word fire comes to mind, do you think of camping? a fireplace? Cooking? The word fire is used everyday for things that are ordinary, and no big deal. If I were to place a noun in front of the fire, it would describe the situation completely.
When one hears that they immediately think of structure fire and indeed that is what this post is about today. How many of you have lived near something a structure that is on fire? How many of you have had a structure fire of your own?
I have lived in this house for 24 years. I am uncertain as to the year but when my son was just a baby, the grocery store at the end of the block burnt completely down. I recall for whatever reason that day being up early right after the sun rose. I kept hearing gunshots which even though we are in town the river bottom is less than a couple of miles away (on just right morning the sound would carry) and so it is not unusually to hear the popping of a gun in the distance. I completely dismissed the noise for an ordinary Saturday morning noise for dove hunting or whatever was in season.
I woke up smelling smoke. Sometimes burning of brush smells our town up a bit. I searched the house to make sure it was not my house, and then I passed the kitchen window. There was smoke coming down the alley like a fog rolling in between my big poplar tree (now it rests in peace) and the neighbors fence line. The dogs, the cats, had no alarm bells on and I am really surprised I was not alerted by them. So I slipped on my husbands work boots, and traveled west towards the end of the block to see if I could see what was on fire. And the snap, crackle, pop which I mistook for gunfire got louder and louder. By the time I was halfway there, the fire trucks and their sirens parked down my street and started running hoses hooking them up to substandard water pressure hydrants. The grocery store burned to the ground and was a total loss. They fought that blaze all morning and due to many factors, it just became a controlled burn. All the accelerants in the store, it would have been impossible to put it out. That is now an empty slab with a parking lot out front.
The noise that I heard in that fire were the aerosol cans exploding, as well as all the canned goods pressure cooking until release. That structure was a nice brick store, you would not think that it could burn like that, but again with all the accelerants, it did with no problem.
I felt terrible. We owed the owners around $100. The mom and pop grocery store would let you keep a tab if you were on hard times. My husband used to work there as a butcher and had an accident with his thumb, and so was unable to work. I only made minimum wage, so a couple weeks worth of groceries were charged. That being kept on paper before the computers taking business by storm, was lost. An immediate out of business for all of the family. All the IOUs and promises gone with it.
Fast forward to last year. A house burned at the other end of my block. Immediately when I heard the popping noise like gunfire I knew something was on fire, it is a sound you never forget. I went out to find the neighbors standing, waiting for the fire dept as the house was totally engulfed in flames. Me being halfway on the block, I could feel the heat of the fire, radiating all the way to my position facing eastward. The house giving off warmth one more time. I could smell all the carcinogens burning, which now that I think about it, it was probably the asphalt shingles burning/melting.
The house was a total loss and burned to the ground. The fire dept did a really good job of keeping the other structures safe. Unfortunately because the shed was too close to the house and property line, the house directly west did get smoke damage, but the lady that lived there had passed away so it was empty.
This house that burned was owned by a property slum lord. Although he fixes up houses and then rents them out, he uses people who are not licensed. The fire was caused by faulty wiring. Renters had been in that house less than a month and lost all their belongings in the fire, they escaped with only their lives.
Fast forward to November 4th, 2018. I am in the kitchen putting veggies on to steam as we are having meatloaf, homemade scalloped potatoes.. I am in there tending to the food and it was a bout 5:00. I kept hearing that all familiar noise of popping like a gun. It sounded very far away and I dismissed it. I sat on the couch and was knitting this.
My daughter wants a humongous sock, like a sleeping bag. When I started this afghan, I had one side that was open to make a nice flat blanket. After scouring the internet for jumbo sized knitting socks, nothing really came up and since I had already started, a sock was not going to be the result. But then I learned you can fold your work back on itself and catch the stitches. I had just turned this up to make the cuff after doing an experiment of popcorn stitches which I really like.
After rounding the loom once, I heard the popping noise of fire and this time it sounded much closer,, or from a different location than when I was in the kitchen. I had just sat down for the second time on the couch after tending to our meal in the kitchen, and this time I heard glass break. The glass was close by. I got up because the neighborhood was deathly silent, unusual not to hear children playing, no dogs barking, nothing.
When I looked out my front door, the house straight across the street was on fire! The flames/heat had broken out the kitchen window and were actually coming out the window. The rush of adrenaline of keeping the family safe, oye! I grabbed my camera to call 911, ok so I was a little panicked. I then grabbed for my phone and for the first time in my life dialed 911. Gave the address and the details, told who owned the house, told them the inhabitants had just moved out on the 30th. And within minutes the fire dept was here. By the time they had arrived, I no longer saw flames. Whatever caught fire was only smoldering at this point. I suspect the popping nosies I heard were cleaners /chemicals exploding, as the owners crew had been in there Wed and Thurs doing whatever it is they do.
I hear the fire dept power ram the kitchen door open (another sound I will never forget). I saw them turn on a high velocity fan to move the smoke for better visibility.. Hoses were being ran, the police officer came over and took my brief statement. And we watched as the 74 year old home let its smoke out. We watched as other neighbors (nearly an hour later came to life and stepped outside shocked to see the fire trucks and hoses) Living in Texas, I never looked this guesstimate up, but I believe the Cowboy game was on and therefore that was why the neighborhood was so quiet.
No one was injured, just the house now in a sadder state of affairs than before. By 6:30 the fire dept was packing up and heading out. A small fire, with much smoke damage. It is odd to not see any life in that house. It is odd to get my car started in the morning and the blackened soot on the windows blackening out the houses life. Everyone who has ever lived in this rent house since I have been living here, has always left the overhead kitchen sink light on, you get used to that.
Both of these houses that burned were owned by the same person. He does not have insurance. I wonder if this was arson? I wonder if it was something faulty? I wonder if it was ammonia and bleach too close together? I am very concerned as the house to the direct east of me, he completed gutted, added onto and then remodeled, took about 3 years. The attic in the old house used to consist of gable vents at each end. When he remodeled, those went away. No whirly turbines on the roof, no attic vents whatsoever. I have always wondered when the house will burn as it gets hot in Texas.
Tempuratures in barns with hay can reach over 100 degrees, not sure in a hot attic but one that is not vented would be hotter than a hot car as a house cannot move to cool down. If the right conditions exist, chemical reactions can happen. A fire can start. My job now, to keep my family safe is to have a candid talk with the city and to get them to prevent another fire.
The owner of the burnt house, came by on Monday while I was at work and thanked me for calling. He also wanted to set up a time to talk to me about the fire, wanted to ask if I had seen or heard anything. He said he would come back by between 5 and 5:30 that day. I rushed home because I wanted to tell him about the house he revamped next door. I want to prevent another fire. I wanted to have a very candid conversation with him. I was stood up, never showed.
Dawn has just arrived and I hear the booms in the distance. I think these are actual gunshot booms. I am going to step outside now, and make sure all is right.
Have a great weekend!