Friday, January 20, 2012


Trenton outside River Eagle Hobbies
in Boonville
We had Trenton for several days in early/mid November while Mommy and Daddy went to Chicago for a hemophilia event.   We even drove Trenton and daddy up to the train station in LaPlata, MO to see him off.  We saw three REAL trains in about 20 minutes, and daddy got on one and took off.

The train station manager let Trenton come back behind the ticket counter and gave him a train coloring book and some crayons and he was quite impressed with the whole thing.  Then we went by the train store in Boonville on the way back and bought a car for our N-scale train.

That Saturday (Nov 12) he and I were on the deck in the morning, and he wanted to build a fire in the chimnea.    It was a bit chilly, so we did.   And we let it burn ... it was down to just some black logs and a few flames, when Vicki decided we needed to take him to see her mother, drop by the grocery store, get him lunch and down for a nap.  This was about 11:50 am.  And I said "well, we'd better get going pretty quick, then".
Yes.  Our house was probably on
fire when this picture was taken.
I went into the kitchen and got a large plastic cup and filled it with water to pour over the fire to put it out.   Started grabbing coats and things, and I peeked out and thought out loud that I thought I needed to do it again.  Even Vicki thought it would be fine, but I still went back and filled the cup again and poured it over the logs.  Got lots of steam and some smoke for a few seconds and then it subsided  and I felt sure it was out.   And we left.

Visited Vicki's mom for maybe a half hour, 45 minutes.  Went to the grocery store, and drove home.

Fireman helping our neighbor Adele
(this is from the paper)
There are a lot of older people in our neighborhood, and it's not unusual to see emergency vehicles -- ambulances, fire trucks carrying EMT stuff ... in the neighborhood.  And there was one blocking our way and I wondered which neighbor was headed to the hospital or worse this time.

And then I saw another fire truck.  And another.  And one with a ladder sticking way out .... 

over our house.

A little smoke in our driveway.
My heart sank.  "That's our house", I said, not really wanting to believe it.    No.  Really?  Yes.  It is.   There was a little smoke drifting around out front.  But the fire was basically out.   Other than some sagging between rafters  in the roof over the garage, the house looked pretty normal from the front.

A very nice woman in a fire suit whose job it obviously was to inform and calm homeowners and neighbors came to talk to us.   She said they were still investigating the cause.  Wanted to know if I left the grill going.   I told her no, but I could tell her exactly what happened.

This one is from the City's website.
The first time I saw a picture of
actual fire at the house.
At the time I figured the wind, and it was very windy that day, blew the fire back up into viable flames and glowing cinders, flying in the wind, and that it caught leaves next to the house on fire.   We have wood siding.  And there were sofit vents up there for it to lick into the attic.

We weren't allowed to go in for at least an hour.  We couldn't leave Trenton in the car -- it was too far down the road, but we needed to talk to the firemen, so I got him out and carried him over there.  They gave him stickers. And he fell asleep on my shoulder.

Our first view inside
Got him back to the car, and his Grammy Pam showed up to get him after a while.

Neighbors were milling about... hugging us, telling us how sorry they were, happy nobody was hurt.

The fire lady said that it was pretty bad, but it looked worse than it was.  Gave me some Red Cross literature.  Had me call my insurance company.   We were both in a daze, and I just did it.  I don't really remember much about it.

The firemen protected
our belongings way
beyond what I would
have expected.
And finally, they let us in the house.   There was wet, blown insulation everywhere.  A giant hole in the kitchen roof.  Vicki said "Oh look, we have a skylight!"   There were a few firemen still putting out smoldering embers.  Lots of debris from stuff stored in the attic was scattered about the kitchen, and piled out on the deck.  The ceiling in the garage had come in, and wet insulation hung down with drywall and stuff that had been above it in the attic.

Out on the deck was the chimnea, with the three logs still in it, not burning, pretty much the way I'd left them.  There was a vertical hole in the kitchen wall.  You could see where the fire had burned up the side of the house and the sofit and most of the roof over the kitchen was gone with the burnt remains of charred rafters hanging out, unsupported on one side.

Part of our extensive stash of
Christmas decorations.
The firemen said the call came in at 12:30, about a half hour after we had left the house.   They said they could see the smoke from the fire house, a mile or so away.  It was already a big fire.  And they had it out by 12:45, 12:50.    We got back about 1:40, 1:45-ish.

All of this happened in 45 minutes?

It had to have been starting as we pulled out of the driveway.

The news reported that I had poured
"2 cups" of water on the fire.
Two of these is closer to a half
Out on the deck there were two propane tanks, one "empty", the other hooked up to the gas grill.  The hose on it was melted. Thank God neither one of them blew. The grill itself had cracked from the heat.   Some of the decking over by the wall where the fire was was burned.  The concrete-fiber grill mat the chimnea sat on was still right there.  The chimnea did not catch the deck on fire.  It was the leaves.  But still.  That big, that fast.

Well, there was a tiki torch there near the house and it likely fell over into the fire at some point.  And then when it burned through the plastic bin all our barbecue stuff was in, there was probably another 3 quarts of torch oil.  That helped.   And the wind.  The wind was a big factor.

Kitchen a day or two later.
I figure now that the second time I put water on it, the steam popped a coal off of one of the logs and it flew into the leaves by the house.  I didn't see it because of the steam.  With the wind and the dried leaves from the wild grape vine, it was the perfect fire storm.

The firemen said they'd be back around 9:00pm to double-check that everything was really OUT out.   But right about sunset the guy doing the tarp on the roof noticed some smoldering in the attic over the kitchen.  It was in some of that blown insulation (which I've always wondered about) that seems to be nothing but ground newspaper.  It apparently holds a coal very well.  They called the fire department back, and they went in and tore into the kitchen sofit area and got the rest of it.   The guys were very professional, but nice and sympathetic at the same time.  Seriously our hats are off to those guys.

It is amazing how little in the house itself was damaged directly by the fire.  The fire crew had also taken care to take pictures off of walls, cookbooks off of the top of the cabinet, furniture out of that kitchen area, and covered everything with huge blue tarps to keep the water, insulation, and drywall off of the furniture and just about everything else.  They did a fantastic job -- way more than either of us ever expected from any fire department.  They'd moved my guitars from the wall downstairs and the living room into the bedroom ... the only room upstairs where there was virtually no visible damage from the fire or the water.

That's where the fire started.
At first, before we went in, I thought "oh, just a couple of days, and we can live in it while it's being fixed."

I wondered at first if it could be fixed by Christmas.

Most of the actual fire damage was in the attic, and the worst of it is that we store all of our Christmas decorations up there, and they were a near total loss.  If you know us, you know we put a lot of effort into decorating for Christmas.  Most of that stuff can be replaced.   Some of it, old stuff from Vicki's childhood and family... cannot.  (a footnote ... a few items actually survived.  I dug through melted plastic and ashes for it, and surprised us).

What a mess.
The insurance company said to get someone to board it up and keep the damage from getting worse.  John Neal knew a guy who did that kind of work, and he came and boarded the kitchen window that had broken out, and put a giant tarp over the damaged roof and the big hole.

We grabbed some clothes and toiletries.  Vicki's jewelry.  The guns from the safe.  And headed across town to Brian and Kristin's house.   

Damn.  The carpet's going to need replacing.  We're going to have to clear out the house if they're taking the roof off.  That's going to be a lot of work.  It'll be like moving!  Then we'll have to store all of it.  And where are we going to live for that period of time?

Ironically, this survived in the attic.
I found it in the debris on the
deck.  We had to keep it.
Over the next several days it became clear from the estimates we got ... this was going to be a big job.  60 to 90 days.   The rafters would have to come off of most if not all of the roof.  And in winter, long precipitation-free periods aren't common around here.

Vicki was retiring the following Friday.  She wondered how that was going to work with the stuff we thought we were going to have to do, but I guessed (correctly) that there wasn't much we could do in the next week anyway.  I met with the adjuster from American Family.  Nice guy.   And I was stunned at what our insurance actually covered.   I guess my agent steered me right.

They get Service Master and ServPro to bid on mitigation and cleanup.  They also move your stuff out, clean it, and store it, and bring it back and put it basically back where it was ("like it never even happened", the ServPro commercial goes).   A general contracting company or construction company comes in and fixes it up in the time being.
Ceiling in garage coming in on our
camping equipment.
The adjuster gave me the names of three companies.  Two of them in "their program" -- which basically means they meet certain standards and use the same estimating software and work together.  A third used to be in their program and probably would be in it again, too.

One company intrigued me.  A local (central Missouri) company called Aerodry ("in" the program) that would do it end to end from mitigation to cleanup, moving, and storage to construction.   If they bid against the other two companies and got the mitigation/cleanup end, I could work with one single company through the whole thing.

Roof being put on.  It's actually
done now.
One of the other two companies didn't even bid.  And Aerodry got the job, which made me very happy.

Due to weather, it took them a long time to get started on the roof.   In the mean time, I had  a lot of trouble sleeping, worrying what about this, what about that, what if .... I wasn't sleeping at all. I got a perscription for Ambien  for a few weeks.  That helped.

They've been very good to work with.  They also use a lot of local small businesses, and everyone I've met seems like good people.  Things are moving along.  I expect about another 5 weeks.  Longer than we expected.  But still.  I've heard of much worse.

Sky through the new rafters.
We are still staying with Brian and Kristin and Trenton.  We brought over enough stuff to get us by.  The insurance company would've put us up in an apartment or extended stay hotel.... but two things.  They pay Brian and Kristin rent for us -- which is cool for them.  And this is a much quieter place to live, and we get to see them every day, and help out with the house and with Trenton.   I'm sure we'll all be ready for us to move out.  But I think we're going to make it.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.