If there is one thing that I have learned about fire through this experience, it is that the destruction it wreaks cannot be predicted. I have sat through many classes for my job where fire safety has been discussed. These are usually put on by a member of the State Fire Marshall's office or by a community fire chief. The presentation would always include a video showing how quickly fire can spread once it is unleashed. These videos would then be followed by a discussion on the basic characteristics or patterns of fire and why fire code is established to help prevent loss.
But to say that all fires are alike would be like saying all people are alike. Yes for the most part we all have two arms, two legs, two hands, two feet, eyes, nose and mouth, but even those are not the same from one person to another. From my experience, fire is the same - no two fires are alike.
A day or two after the fire at our home, the fire chief was asking me to explain it from my perspective. I told him what had happened, how quickly it had moved and how close it had been to us not making it out of our home. After I had finished talking, or at least paused for a breath, he responded with a statement to the extent that the neighbors really hadn't been exaggerating. I guess he had talked to various individuals who had witnessed the fire being started and they had expressed how this fire had not even paused when it reached our house, as you would have expected from a fire, but literally exploded. I know that is what it was like from our perspective as well.
As I have stated before, I have experienced fires before and so has my husband. But nothing we experienced in the past could prepare us for what we experienced on June 26, 2010. This is why I can be nothing but grateful that we all made it out that day and know that we are truly blessed.
But even the fire that destroyed our home had its own personality. As we poked through the rubble trying to find anything to salvage, the first find was my son's blanket. I truly believe that this was a blessing from a loving Heavenly Father and a sign that He is watching out for us. That this one item could survive unscathed in a room that was unrecognizable as a bedroom continues to be a miracle. This is the only item we removed from the house that did not receive any damage from the fire.
There have been other items that we were able to find. Most important to me were the scrapbooks. I think by the time we finished clearing the lot, we had found parts of most of the scrapbook I had ever done. The most amazing save was on the day we were clearing the lot. I looked up to see a scrapbook hanging from the bucket of the tractor. Rick signalled the driver to stop and lower the bucket. It was the section of Hunter's scouting scrapbook that contained his Eagle certificate, letters of recognition and his Eagle paperwork.
But this is one example why in my mind fire is so selective. From the family room, there was nothing recognizable but a portion of the treadmill frame. Yet we found a portion of our wedding album. Unfortunately, the damage was so extreme that it was only identified by a partial picture of us cutting the cake, a picture of our best man, and the chopsticks from the restaurant where we ate when Rick proposed. An album that was once 11X14 was now the size of a luncheon plate. It amazes me that not even the frame from our sofa was found, yet this portion of an album was recovered.
The same thing happened in the living room where the upstairs bedroom collapsed. This was where the majority of the albums were recovered, much to my amazement. These albums were so burned that the page protectors had melted together. The albums that were in the office faired a little better. Yet even here there were inconsistencies with one album appearing to have received more damage than another and some hardly damaged at all, yet they had sat side-by-side on the same shelf.
The thought of going through all these partial albums to see what could be saved was overwhelming. Everytime I tried, I would burst into tears. This was a task that was so emotionally daunting that I didn't fell I could do it, yet I knew it had to be done soon or nothing would be usable. This is when I remembered the lesson that I had learned that very first day - people want to help, I just needed to ask. So I came up with the idea of a De-Scrapbooking Party.
I contacted my friend Michelle and asked if I could use her studio for the event. She quickly agreed. As she started throwing out ideas for what we could do, I had to slow her down. I know she was picturing slightly charred scrapbooks with pictures easy to remove. She admitted to me that she had no idea what we would be facing until I showed up to set up for the party. Who would have ever guessed we would be using hammers to separate pages of a scrapbook, yet that is what we had to do.
Let me say again, I have amazing friends. I was awed at how many people came to help with this project. We were able to accomplish in four hours what would have taken me months or even longer to accomplish. We were also able to recover some special things as well - irreplacable pictures, blessing certificates, Hunter's mission call and other memorabilia. While none of it is in pristine condition, I have great faith in scanning and Photoshop.
The moral support of these amazing women was the greatest gift. I can't say that I didn't cry, since part of this was an exercise in letting go as I realized that there were things that were just gone. But at those times, there was someone to put their arm around me, tell a goofy story or a joke. My friends treated these books as if they were their own and were as committed as saving as much as possible just as I was, maybe even more as I became overwhelmed by the emotion of it all. Thank you everyone for keeping me sane.
By the end of the night, we were making plans for a scanning party. I promise that the food will be just as good.