Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When Serious Intrudes

I’ve been operating on adrenaline all day, ever since about 1 a.m. this morning. That’s when I woke up to a strange popping noise. It was like hearing popping corn from inside the popping container. As I rolled over in bed to look out the window, I imagined I might see a very violent hail storm, with pellets hitting our house at high velocity.

But I saw only some evidence of rain on our family room roof below our bedroom window. Then I saw that the back yard next door was lit up. “Why do they have all their backyard lights on at this time of the early morning?” I thought to myself. As I leaned closer to the window, I saw it wasn’t floodlights at all. It was fire. Flames were engulfing the sun room next door.

I woke Wendy and told her to call 9-1-1. As she did that, I threw on a jacket and ran downstairs and outside. Fortunately, I sleep nearly dressed with sweatpants, t-shirt and socks (I get cold at night). Afterwards, I wished I would have at least thrown on a pair of slippers too.

Outside, the street was dark and deserted at just before 1 a.m. No sign of our next door neighbors who live inside the home, flames from which were now shooting over the roof into the towering maple tree in back. Our neighbor from across the street came out of her house at nearly the same time I did and asked if our neighbors had gotten out.

“I don’t know,” I said.

She told me I should try and knock on the door. That was a bit scary as I could feel the intense heat and smell the smoke as I approached the front entrance. Rang the bell and knocked, but all seemed dark and quiet inside. So I went to one of the bedroom windows just in case they were still asleep (hard to believe with all the racket, but you never know). I knocked and kept knocking as hard as I could on the window. Then I saw the front door open.

Shortly, thereafter the family emerged, mother, father, teen-aged daughter, daughter-in-law and baby. They escaped with the clothes on their backs and that was about it. Well, they were wearing better footwear than my thin dress socks. THEN the police arrived, with the firefighters right on their heels.

What a relief! I know my next door neighbor takes great pride in his home and has made many updates himself over the years, building the sun room addition himself. But homes can be replaced. Lives cannot.

One of the firemen asked me to check on the neighbor on the opposite side. So I banged on his door too, but he was already up. “They’re going to need more fire trucks. Probably four or five,” he said, pulling on a shirt. I can’t remember whether I told him I would pass his advice along to the fire chief.

He stayed near his home, making sure the flames didn’t reach his garage. I guess I should have done the same as the intense heat melted the vinyl siding on our attached garage. It’s funny the things you think about and the things you don’t when you’re faced with such a dire situation. And how adrenaline takes over. It was a while before I realized that I had quite a bloody knuckle from knocking.

Later, one of the regional news websites said the family was roused by smoke alarms. Hmmm, never heard those. I supposed it’s possible. Later, I saw another article on a separate local news website. It included this:

"A neighbor was awoken by the sound of the flames and saw the roof burning on the home next door. He ran outside while his wife called 9-1-1 and began banging on the door. When no one answered, he began frantically banging on the windows and screamed.”

I don’t remember screaming but I could have. Either way, it sounds pretty close to what I remember. And Wendy was happy that she, as “his wife”, got some credit too.

I posted some pictures below. The refuse containers are mine and were stored next to the garage.

By the way, I had a rather humorous blog planned for this week, almost all set to go. Then real life intruded in a rather serious way. I just hope it doesn’t happen anytime soon.


Blogger Lynilu said...

Oh, my. That is so devastating. I'm glad to hear that the family got out alright. Having something happen so close is an awakening, isn't it?

Well, here's to the hero and heroine of the neighborhood! Good for you! I sleep so soundly I probably would not have been any help to those poor people, so I'm glad they were not my next door neighbors!

8:05 AM  
Anonymous cassie-b said...

What a scary thing to happen.
So glad they all got out.

You heroes did all the right things - kudos

9:00 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

How horrifying for your neighbours, but as you say they are safe and that is the main thing. I don't know how people get over losses like that. It's all the little, simple personal memorabilia that gets lost, unable to be replaced that is so sad, as well. House fires like that cause me to shiver! I hope they can get back on their feet soon.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

LYNILU--Having something like that happen right next door is unreal. It's more like you were playing a part in some movie.

CASSIE--I don't think we're heroes. We just did what anyone else would have done. Nothing heroic about knocking and calling 9-1-1. But thanks just the same.

LEE--It's something that will take a long time to get over. And they've had other things happen that makes me wonder whether they've just been living under a dark cloud of late.

3:57 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

Much too close for comfort Dave, glad everyone is OK.

5:48 AM  
Blogger Voyager said...

Wow! What a scare. You probably saved those people.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

PETER--I just hope that's a one in a lifetime experience.

VOYAGER--Since the police were here very quickly, I think they would have gotten them out if I didn't (and if they didn't get out on their own).

3:57 AM  
Blogger TechnoBabe said...

Dave, I tagged you on my blog if you want to join the game.

6:58 AM  
Blogger Carine said...

kudos to you and Wendy, Dave. How scary and thank goodness you were there to do all you did.

Thank goodness they all got out okay.
how awful for the family on one hand, but so wonderful in another.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

TECHNOBABE--I saw it. Think I did something similar before, but it's probably been a year or better. I'll work it in to my next blog.

CARINE--I hope the family sees it both ways soon. They should get a new house out of it, one way or another. But it must be tough for them right now.

5:22 PM  
Blogger amarkonmywall said...

This is a very evocative and scary post, Dave. I always think fire would be one of the worst things to happen- that stems back to my college days working at the old St. Joes hospital where I took ECGs on burn patients on the afternoon shift. The piece that rings most true in all of this is that, ultimately, as much as we value it stuff is just stuff. This family escaped intact. What a gift to one and all that you were there in the way that you were at that moment in time.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi Dave ~~ I am so glad you were able
to help your neighbors and to see they were all safe. Well done and it
must have been scary for you and
Thank you so much for your comments
but I assure you I type jokes much better than tell them, so no chance
of a stage career. I take too many pills too and had heard about the lawyer asking the Doc on the stand, How do you know he's dead. His brain is in a jar on my desk.
Those attorney jokes were good.
They were so stupid.
Take care, my friend,Regards, Merle.

2:19 AM  
Blogger Yoga in Mirrormont said...

I hope and pray that neither Spartans nor couches were involved.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

VICKIE--Unfortunately, Ann Arbor recently has suffered through a rash of suspicious fires on two separate nights recently. This past weekend several cars were set on fire and one owner was burned trying to extinguish the flames on his own burning vehicle.

MERLE--Very true, writing is much easier than speaking in public.

YOGA IN MIRRORMONT--No, no couches nor Spartans were involved next door, so far that I know, but Ann Arbor is considering a ban on outdoor sofas because of a rash of suspicious fires there. I suspect Spartans could be involved (just because of the interest shown by some people in such things).

3:57 AM  
Anonymous Caroldee said...

Lordie Dave this is terrifying...I am so glad you and everyone else is okay.. So sad about their loss though.. when faced with trouble our Dave was a true blue HERO indeed.. I am very proud of you..
well written and soscary too. Take care of yourself : )

2:50 PM  
Blogger Kacey said...

Hope you get some new siding on that tacky looking garage. Thank goodness you were available to awaken the neighbors....you are our hero! When we were very young and lived in a small trailer, the next door neighbor stumbled into his trailer about midnight and burned to death by 2 a m from the cigarette he had in his hand at midnight. I felt terrible about being the last one to see him alive and had to move out into an apartment after seeing his charred body bagged by the coroner. Fire is a horrible thing, but you are a great neighbor.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Key to the city is the least they can do...

11:40 AM  

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