*Illogic Logic Pays Off*
Years ago, we found the “perfect” site for our dream house. Beautiful view, 33 acres, wonderful artesian spring, far away from town (2 whole miles), not even a road name or rural route! Of course the acreage was on a side-hill. But, hey, we were from San Francisco, so that didn’t faze our enthusiasm!
Being “young and dumb,” we decided to design it ourselves... That idea grew to “Hey, let’s build it ourselves!” Out came the sketch pads, graph tablets, rulers, pencils, pens and all those ideas. Oh, and went to the store and bought a book: “Carpentry Made Easy”
Too big, too small, nothing seemed to quite fit our family of six. I wanted a big house, he wanted a small one! We decided to compromise: the final design was mine to do. So, I did it. We built a two-story “barn-style,” three bedrooms, one bath house. One thing I wanted for sure was esape routes from every room in the house (in case of fire, earthquake, whatever.)
So the second floor was ten feet less in width than the lower and a large porch on the kitchen-pantry end of the house. Windows opened out of every room to an immediate escape from downstairs, but upstairs was limited to the stairway down through the center of the structure. The extra five feet on each side of the lower level gave us a fair chance to “dive out a window” and get down from there.
The adventures and mis-adventures of building that house is a whole “other story.” Suffice it to say it was built by four adults, our cildren and their friends. I was architect, contractor, plumbing and electrical engineer. Thank heavens for that book! :)
Once we’d moved ourselves and the kids in, it was lesson time for them. My greatest fear has always been fire, so fire-drills were routine at our house. No set times, but irregular and fairly often.
On April 8, 1988, my greatest fear turned to reality! While I was sleeping upstairs, my ex-son-in-law sleeping downstairs, the three grandkids and their mother watching a LOUD music video right under me, the boys upstairs bedroom caught fire!
Now, several days earlier we had put a new plug on an old space heater... when the plug promptly got hot, I pitched it out onto the trash. The thermostat was faulty. (My mistake... I should have cut the wire off at the heater!) The night was cold... brrr... So, my daughter (not Dragoona) sent her oldest boy out to the trash, retrieved the heater and plugged it in upstairs.
Later on, Motley Crue (A “yappy” little terrier) ran halfway up the stairs and made enough noise to be heard over the video. His mom sent the oldest boy to shut the dog up. He spotted smoke coming out from under his closed door. He felt the door and it was cool to the touch, so he opened it... A massive fireball blew out of his room with the addition of air and rolled down the hallway to my closed door. Jamie was blown down the stairs.
My granddaughter, Heather, made the 9-1-1 call while Bruce tried to get up the stairs... Not possible... so he ran around to the side of the house and tried to climb the lattice work to the porch roof. The bedroom wall blew out of the burning house and knocked him to the ground. He ran around to the front and started screaming for me to wake up! (I’d worked from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. and in an effort to sleep had pulled quilts, pillows, etc. over my head to shut the noise out.)
Nikki was bashing on Pete’s downstairs bedroom door to wake up and get out... the house was on fire! Then joined her voice with Heather’s, screaming for me to wake up.
Obviously, I finally did :) I rolled off of my bed, slapped my hand against the chimney that went through my room and found it cold. Then, diagonally across my bed, grabbing my dog’s collar as I swung across. Isis, my Saluki, was a dead weight, so I just let it slide through my hand and threw my escape window open.
The last thing I remember from inside that black, clack hole was stepping on my camera case, using it to boost me through the window in a hurry. Bruce was out there yelling at me to hurry. The entire second floor was engulfed in flames! Me? I started complaining that my ladder was missing! (The boys were spreading fresh tarpaper on the barn roof and hadn’t brought it back.) The roof under my feet was warm and soft... Jamie (6’7”) reached up and lifted me off of that lower roof!
The kids all took off running down the 600’ steep and zig-zaggy driveway to a neighbor’s house. My son-in-law was sitting on the front seat of his car, feet on the ground, when I spotted him and yelled to get his car out of there! His response? “Why?” I could hear sirens coming up from town and Canyon Road is steep, twisty and narrow! He took off down the drive and the firetrucks almost forced him off the road.
Thank heavens, I’d been so tired when I got home, I’d left the keys in my car! Nikki and I crawled into my Festiva and we took off down that drive. Nikki told me later that I’d hit 70 mph! At the bottom of the drive we bounced across the road and Nikki screamed at me to hit the brakes - I almost took out the county clerk’s garage.
There, we sat... Emergency vehicles in our driveway, nobody realizing we’d just fled the scene, and I felt as if I were strangling!
Nikki, on her one leg, hobbled to the back of the car and managed to attract an officer’s attention. A quick call brought the ambulance up the hill and we were on our way to the hospital. All of us (except Pete) wound up needing oxygen... even little old Motley Crue (our hero).
I had 17% carbon monoxide in my blood and it took a bit of time to recover.
Lessons learned: practise evacuations pay off! Plus, always put fire breaks in you attic spaces. The attic acts like a chimey and pulls the fire through them. Our all wood home with 25 years of waxing floors, walls and antique furniture when up like a well laid bonfire! The fire chief told me later that he’d never seen such a hot fire.
There’s more to be said, but I think this is enough for now! One major
thing I came to realize... Things mean nothing when compared to human lives!!!! Nuff said.
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