This story is Part 2 of our personal first hand experience of how we dealt with a fire in our home. READ Part 1 of the story..
My husband went back to the house later that night…
He went to remove the entire stove from the house because he was worried that if the fire restarted we would be away and the worst would happen. We would lose the whole house.
He got our neighborhood friend and group leader to help him while I got the dog and the children settled at my mother-in-law’s house. We didn’t know how long our stay would be here with her but we were so very thankful to have a place to go that night.
The next day we got the kids to school as we normally would. I told our daughters teacher what had happened and she was clearly very upset for us. Thank the Lord for a sweet soul like that. I would NEED her understanding during this recovery time.
Next we went home to investigate. The house was a mess! Soot from the fire was everywhere. Across the house, on the floor – it had drifted from room to room covering all areas of the house that the fire had missed. The only actual fire damage was to the kitchen but smoke damage was EXTENSIVE. Every single room smelled like a campfire (except the guest bathroom because the door was closed.) We didn’t know where to begin. My husband was so eager to roll up his sleeves and put it all back together but I was the voice of reason and said, “No.” We would need to document EVERYTHING first. And his asthma was of course my main issue with his plan. And rightfully so, 2 days after the fire he was feeling the effects of the smoke he had breathed in. Migraine, hoarseness, nausea – he had pushed himself a little to far.
Our first step was to contact our insurance company. They let us know how to proceed. The adjuster would come out and document everything, take photos, etc. We would have a cleaning service out to deal with this mess – and they would be armed with commercial grade equipment. We were so thankful that those clothes that had absorbed the smoke smell would be taken away and cleaned for us. Phewph! One less thing I had to deal with. Originally, I told them just take the clothes that were exposed to the smoke (i.e. the ones that were hanging in open closets – probably not the ones in the drawers.) I said use your judgement. But I had things to take care of – school pick up and all my normal things I handled. When we came home the laundry service took.it.all. They took shoes, toys, purses, pillows, and EVERYTHING else you could imagine that was fabric or could be washed – it looked like we were robbed. My husband assured me this was OK, it’s part of the process. The cleaning service was out everyday for what seemed to be weeks.
It took a team of 3-5 well over a week to remove our microwave, cabinetry, refrigerator, plates, food and allllllll the contents that are typically in a household kitchen. To scrub it all and make it livable. Freshly cleaned carpet and fans were still running to dry everything when we returned home. NO more smoke smell but we still had tons of work to do. But we were, FINALLY, back home.
Fall turned to winter and were were still working on putting things back together. We had gotten our appliances replaced. New stove, microwave and refrigerator. But when would we get our THINGS BACK?! The process, we were assured, would be about a month beyond doubled it that time. We went without a lot that holiday season. I had 1 pair of old moccasins that were literally falling apart at the seams. I was able to purchase 2 more pairs of shoes.
Not your typical holiday season experience. I had no coat and it was getting COLD. I finally broke down and got a replacement. Things that were essential when changing from one season to the next. I had to contact the company for items we NEEDED back. An American Girl doll (so my daughter would have her beloved doll on Christmas morning – OK not a TOTAL essential, but it was our one spurge request), kids winter clothes, school uniforms – some of it we just had to replace and get reimbursed for because with all they took it would be like searching for a needle in a hay stack for a single item we needed. I truly regretted not being there and to oversee what all they took away. I had no idea what they had and what might be around the house.
It was a chaotic time. There were so many appointments. Flooring companies. Cabinetry companies. Contractors. I was traveling all over the valley. Trying to get the best deals but also trying to get it all in order as soon as humanly possible. At one point we used the bathroom sinks to wash dirty dishes because my husband replaced our sink but it wasn’t functional because we didn’t have countertops. At last we decided on a place for countertops and had a contractor. We had selected a contractor’s supply resource and because of that we got a large enough slab that allowed us to replace our bathroom counters/vanities as well. But that meant we would have to resort to the hose for cleaning dishes while the contractor replaced everything.
It was January (fire date was November 1st) by the time the insurance company settled with the cleaning company and we got some 30-40 moving boxes full of our personal items back. It filled up our entire front room. The whole process had gotten a little ugly because the cost was more than anticipated.
It ended up costing over $11k to launder/clean it all. You heard right! $11k to that laundry service alone!!!
I really wished I had been there to oversee the process…a learning lesson. The cleaning company claimed to the insurance company I authorized it all and I argued that I wasn’t even there. It was a bumpy path to recovery, there is not doubt about it. But we were blessed so many times along the way. People had brought us meals, groceries, a replacement diaper bag, hand-me-down clothes, and would even watch the kids while I attempted to get everything back in it’s original place. I truly felt the sense of community as my tribe came around me – they had us covered on moral support and much, much more.
What I took away from it all was things are just that. They are things. There is nothing we didn’t end up either replacing or getting back in the long run. I unexpectedly got an important lesson that the things in my house don’t make it a home – I didn’t need 30 pair of shoes or whatever item(s) to make my Christmas feel like a blessed one. All I needed was my family & friends. My tribe. They are the one thing I would take from my burning home.