In Case of Fire
Before I go into all of the dramatic details, I will skip to the end and let you know that everyone and everything is A-okay. No one is hurt. No dramatic damage has been done to anything.
That said, I called 911 for the first time in my life today.
The long story short is that I put a kettle on to boil water for coffee and forgot all about it. I was upstairs putting away laundry with my mom; Ian was asleep on the couch. Simon discovered the fire. He called up to me, and I could immediately tell something was really wrong. I ran down the stairs, Clara in my arms, to find him crying and saying there was a fire. I looked into the kitchen just long enough to see that the back burner was in flames. (It also looked like the kettle had collapsed into the burner and that possibly the whole stove top was melting.) The memory I have of the next several minutes is a strange mix of vivid, slow-motion detail and complete blur. I know I felt really scared and kept yelling, “Get out! We have to get out!”
It’s surprisingly hard to call 911 in a panic. I couldn’t dial the three numbers fast enough, and when the dispatcher asked me for the number of the phone I was calling from, I discovered that I’d grabbed my mom’s phone and couldn’t remember. I had headed back in the house to try to smother the fire with baking soda and a whole bucket of flour. I guess it worked, but I didn’t really stick around to find out. I told the dispatcher we had gotten the kids out of the house and that I was trying to put out the fire. When she told me she wanted me to leave the house too, I didn’t argue.
Two firetrucks and at least six firemen came to our house. Two or three firemen suited up and headed in. Another fireman stayed with us and kindly answered my questions and kept telling me and the kids that everything would be okay. All told, it only took a few minutes to make sure it was all clear. They opened up doors and windows and used a big fan to clear out the smoke. Then one of the firemen showed me where they had moved the kettle and burner to on the back sidewalk. They checked in with my mom and the kids and then were on their way. I cannot say enough good things about the Lincoln Fire Department; they were simply great.
All told, the damage was one ruined stove burner, one tea kettle charred almost beyond recognition, one box of baking soda, one bucket of wheat flour, a big mess, and a moderately smelly house. I, of course, had a breakdown when the adrenalin wore off. I am so relieved for how things happened and especially for how they ended today and thankful for God’s protection of us. Simon has quite a story to tell; he was so brave.
Strangely — or fittingly — enough, we had an incident about two weeks ago with Jason’s computer that made me think about the old icebreaker question of what you would grab in case of a fire. The boys were playing where they shouldn’t have been and pulled the cord and cut the power to the computer. We couldn’t get the computer to boot back up and feared that the hard drive may have been fried — gone would be almost all the pictures I had taken in the last several months, several important files for Jason’s freelance work, licenses for software that would be relatively expensive to replace, and so on. I cried my eyes out over that possibility and even remarked to a friend how sad and frustrating it was that the one thing I would grab in a fire is the one thing we had lost. But I also came to realize and accept that even legitimately precious stuff (I’m thinking of the pictures in particular) is still just stuff. (And it turned out that the hard drive is just fine after all; we do need to replace the power cord, though.)
Today that silly icebreaker question became all too real. I think I knew that the house wasn’t actually going to burn down, but still, it was a scary situation. I would grab Simon. Ian. Clara. Nothing else. Not the computer, not pants for Ian, not shoes, not keys, not the right phone. If the kids weren’t in the house, I would grab nothing at all. Now I know.