Monday, July 11, 2011

Courage Under Fire

A year ago today, our house caught fire during the night while we were all asleep. We are an extended family, so it was Grandma who sounded the alarm at around 5am. She thought she heard an intruder and called us on her cell phone from the other end of the house. What she actually heard was pictures crashing off the walls and cans exploding in a room that had reached eight hundred degrees.
My husband soon realized that we couldn't reach her because of the heat and the thick black smoke that filled the main part of our house. We phoned for help and ran to get the children out, which was hard because we knew that Grandma was trapped, and couldn't walk. Within minutes, four firetrucks arrived, and began fighting the blaze. A red ball of fire - a flash over - belched out of our kitchen just after the firefighters went in.
They say suffering is good for writers - but this experience I could have done without! After the blaze was out, we came back to scenes like these:

There was structural damage to the roof and the whole of the back of the house had to be rebuilt, but overall we were incredibly lucky. All five of us escaped - including Grandma. The firemen ripped off her bedroom window and got her out with only minutes to spare. She had put a pillow down in front of her bedroom door to stop some of the smoke from getting in underneath - and this undoubtedly helped to save her life. As did the firefighters who lifted her to safety. She's a tough old lady who was a little girl in the London Blitz, and I'm so glad she made that call about the 'intruder' at five am!
The whole experience was a bit of a close call, as you can see. It has left us with a lot less furniture, a blackened wedding album, and a fanatical interest in smoke alarms (the batteries were out in ours). But it's true when they say that any experience that doesn't kill you can make you stronger. I can honestly say that while I was watching my house burn, my work-in-progress was the last thing on my mind, but I'm sure that one day this event while find its way into my books in various shapes and disguises. Looking back all that matters is that we got everyone out, and lived to tell the tale.
Now go check your smoke alarms!


  1. Wow! That is really all I can say.

    When I was 5 I survived my home burning down. My sister and I (the only two people who were home) were fine but we lost our family pets. And you are absolutely right--smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and a fire escape plan that everyone in the house knows are vital.

  2. Hello Shanan - a fellow survivor! We lost our budgie, but in the scheme of things, it could have been SO much worse. The hardest thing was when my mom (the twins grandma) yelled at me to leave her and get the kids out. Yes, an escape plan is really important - that's a good comment.

  3. Wow, thank you for the wake-up and for sharing this personal story. So glad your whole family is okay! Rae

  4. Thank you for sharing your story, I'm glad you are all safe and soul, take care :)

  5. I've always had this fear of fire in the back of my mind, esp with a house full of (7!) children! Smoke alarms/grandmas with cell phones are a must! So glad to hear everyone got out safely, and you are right--it's at these moments that we realize what really matters in life: each other. Thanks for posting!

  6. Thanks Ang! We never thought anything like this would happen to us, and we count ourselves very lucky.