Neighbor’s House Destroyed by Fire

Scary night tonight. I originally planned to post about our afternoon at the Fox Theater for the live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. Instead we watched as fire destroyed one of the houses next door to ours.

We came home from the Fox around 7:30 or so. There was a smell outside like something was burning but we figured it was a fireplace from some nearby house. It was cold out and there wasn’t anything that would indicate anything unusual. I took Collen for a walk around the block, going right past the house next door. Came back inside and was online for a bit, when I heard honking in the street and then someone pounding on our door repeatedly. I went downstairs and opened the door to find a neighbor yelling at us to get out of the house because the house next to us was on fire.

I called upstairs to Kristin to come down because the house next door was on fire. I put Collen on his leash and went outside to see people gathering outside. I looked next door and saw smoke billowing out from the soffits. They said fire department had been called and we could already hear sirens. I put Collen on his tie-out, went back in, and we moved the cars from the garage, mine down the street, and Kristin’s in the driveway across from ours. I went back to put Collen on his leash, and by that time, the fire trucks had arrived.

Ultimately we had fire crews from four departments I was told, multiple ambulances, and even a hook and ladder. They went in, but this was a challenge for them because the woman who lives next door is a pack rat, especially for plants as far we can tell. Her garage was always packed full of bags of dirt and other supplies. Whenever you looked inside through the windows, all you could see were plants everywhere. I’ve seen greenhouses with fewer plants in them. Someone warned them when they arrived just what they were getting into, and eventually it looks like they had to fight the fire mostly from outside.

After a couple hours, they had the fire out. The house is standing, but the second level is mostly gutted. The first floor appears to be mostly intact although I’m sure water and smoke took care of whatever was down there. Apparently the floor of the master bedroom above the garage collapsed, at least partially. They had to bring in a front end loader to dig out debris from all the stuff in the garage, and while they were doing that, I could see what appeared to be insulation and wood from the ceiling hanging in the garage.

It appears the fire started on the side opposite ours, so we didn’t have any problems due to heat from her house. We never saw flames from our side, although some people who were behind the house said you could occasionally see flames inside. The fire department did a fantastic job of containing the fire. They were on the scene within 3 minutes and took command of the situation. Quite impressive.

There’s still a smell of smoke in our house, but not as bad as I feared. We’ll see how things are tomorrow and figure out if we just need to air things out or whether we need to call someone in to help.

One thing that the fire did was get a lot of our neighbors talking to each other. We’re as guilty as most people who live in modern subdivisions, not knowing their neighbors as well as people may have in the past. And even with the people we do know, we realized we don’t have any contact info for any of them in case of an emergency. No cell phones, family, etc. Here was a situation where they were trying to contact the homeowner and no one knows her well enough to have a cell phone or even know where she was (since she wasn’t home tonight). Tomorrow I’m going to print out some emergency contact sheets and give them to our surrounding neighbors and ask them to do the same.

So, to make a long story short (too late), the house next to ours is a mess, we’re OK, and we need to get to know our neighbors better than we do. Now I’m tired, my head hurts from breathing in smoke while standing outside, and I’m going to bed.