Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My Parents' House

Monday evening I got a call from my Mom letting me know that on Sunday afternoon late their house was hit by lightning and caught fire. The charge entered through the main electrical service panel in the storage room off the 2-car garage, and that's where the fire started (best we can tell). I drove down on Tuesday to see what I could do to help with the immediate needs. They have already begun working with the claims adjuster, signed a contract with the company to do the clean-up, and secured a contractor to do the rebuild (they were signing that contract when I arrived).

Looking at the fire damage was a surreal experience. Mom's van was burned to a crisp (there is nothing left of the upholstery ... just the metal seat-frames), as was the boat and everything else in the garage. Once the fire reached the van (and the gas tank thereof) and the boat (and the gas tank thereof), things had to have gotten extremely hot extremely fast. There is nothing left of the plywood ceiling of the garage, although the roof trusses and the roof itself (mansard roof on the house) maintained structural integrity. There used to be many, many tools in the storage room on pegboard on the wall. The pegboard is gone and I couldn't see hardly any remainder of the hand tools among the rubble. I wasn't dressed for plundering this afternoon, though. What used to be Dad's circular saw and power drill were easily identified, and I saw one adjustable end wrench ... but that was about it.

The door into the house (raised panel with 9 panes of glass on the upper half) is interesting. The panels on the lower half didn't survive, and the heat was intense enough to melt the panes of glass. The first room in the house is a utility/laundry/mud room only about 6 feet by about 12 feet. Six feet from the outside door in a direct path across the utility room is the door to the breakfast room. To the right of that door there is (was) a hall tree (for jackets, umbrellas, etc.) perpendicular to that sat the washer and dryer side by side with cabinets above. Opposite the washer and dryer (on the left as you enter from the garage) is a broom cabinet and small counter and sink. Above that sink is a window that used to look outside, but now looks onto the porch (more about that later). The utility room and the breakfast room took the most heat. The cabinets are toast, but it looks like the china and crystal in the breakfast room cabinets survived. It looks to me like the once lovely hardwood table and Queen Anne chairs are probably all beyond salvage.

The skylights on the porch (we call it that because it began life as a screened-in porch ... OK, it actually began life as an open patio ... but now is glassed in with central heat and air) were mostly melted. The ones closest to the breakfast room are in now-hardened puddles on the floor. The ones farthest away show signs of heat-induced deformation. The ones in between are the most interesting ... hanging in ribbons of once molten plastic. There is oily soot everywhere. Bose wave radio ... probably done for. TV ... same story. All the plants that were on the porch ... even those farthest away from the heat (and the porch is a good 30 feet from one end to the other) were baked to death. It doesn't look like any of those survived.

The next room in beyond the breakfast room is the kitchen. The plastic parts of all of the appliances are in various stages of meltedness depending on what type of plastic they were and how close they were to the garage. But there was a sealed glass jar on the counter with home-made M&M cookies in it that were still very edible. I had a couple and didn't die. Again, oily soot all over everything in varying degrees.

In the rest of the house, it's mainly smoke damage. The family photos on the walls of the main hall will survive fine (once they're cleaned). Other than the hall tree and the furniture in the breakfast room, it looks like all of the furniture will survive. The bedrooms upstairs show little or no evidence of anything catastrophic having happened.

This is not meant to be a detailed description ... just a thumbnail sketch of how things looked when I first saw them this afternoon. I may not blog any more descriptions either. I don't know. The most important thing (that I probably should have written at first) is that the folks are fine and dealing with the "what now" issues admirably. I'm amazed at everything Mom has been able to accomplish thus far ... and Dad is following orders fairly well. We consider it a blessing from God that everything of sentimental family value came through almost completely unscathed. As far as we can tell right now, absolutely nothing irreplaceable was lost. Furthermore, they both seem to have a peace about them that passes understanding (hmmm...).

To all who read my blog, I would appreciate prayers for my folks. To those who knew about it before reading this, thanks for your prayers already. They are in good hands with great family and wonderful neighbors and friends and church support ... and for the next few days, they have me with them!


Blogger JATB said...

We will be praying for your mom and dad, Morris.

11:56 AM  

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