Thursday, November 16, 2006

Closer Than I'd Ever Care to Be

It is an eerie thing to hear the sirens come to a screeching halt outside your front door; scarier still to look out your kitchen window and see flames erupting from the window of the house next door, to smell the acrid smoke with all doors closed and windows shut.

Fire trucks, other fire department vehicles, city utility and EMS vehicles are parked haphazardly all along the street out front. Several people were standing in the backyard a while ago, watching in disbelief. I went out to offer my help--a place to get out of the rain, a phone, whatever--but it wasn't needed, at least at this point. I didn't want to stand outside and gawk rudely; I had no other reason to be out there.

No one was hurt; the house is split up into three or four apartments and only one person was home at the time--the one who smelled smoke and called 911. The window where I saw someone inside remodeling yesterday is now blackened. The house was an eyesore before; I wonder if it will be salvaged. The danger is past; the owner/landlady is gone and the tenants standing in the backyard have dispersed. They likely are now homeless, at least temporarily. I hope they have family or friends to go to. I feel as though I want to help, but don't know how.

The house is close enough to string a tin-can telephone or a clothesline between that window and ours; I would have worried if ours weren't brick. If it had been a dry day, our fence might have burned.

The entire backyard is hazy now. I stand at the window, compelled to watch, thinking that the reflective stripes on the firefighters' uniforms really do work--all I can see through the black hole of the window are patches of muted fluorescent yellow. From my vantage point, it seems obvious this is where the fire started, where the flames were shooting out. The paint next to the window is discolored, bubbled up crispy; the screen hangs in shreds. The window frame is clearly charred; a few fragments of glass hanging at the top are all that's left.

Two firefighters use a long yellow pole to bang at the wall on the other side of the peeling exterior paint. From what my brother has explained to me, I'm guessing that they're looking for the weakest, most damaged spot, to pinpoint the fire's origin. Wiring in the wall, perhaps? Old houses are especially vulnerable to faulty wiring, and this gives me pause.

All flames are out now; after a breather in the backyard, the firefighters are back in that room at work. I watch one unscrew a bottle of orange Gatorade, settling in for a long morning. They put their helmets back on and begin cleanup, dragging charred pieces of plywood out the back door. As I watch them work, I can't stop thinking of my little brother. I feel intense pride (and a little trepidation) at the thought that this is Josh's line of work, his passion.


Anonymous said...

Hi Amy,
Wow. What a story. I pray that God will open an opportunity for you to be able to help in some way in the midst of this tragedy. Maybe prayer is the most powerful tool.

Sorry, to deviate from the topic of your post...but I actually got on here to ask you a question. I was asked by our youth pastor if I would lead a two week discussion group for JH girls on the topic "Love, Dating, and the "S" word". I have a pretty good idea of some stuff that I want to talk about, but I wanted to put together a list of resources that the girls could go to if they wanted to read a book or chat on-line more about purity, sex, Christian dating, etc. Do you have any ideas of books or websites?

Thanks for the help!!!

Love ya,

Combs said...

It's an odd thing to stand and watch somthing be destroyed, Yet we watch. It never really matters what it is, a house burning, a dream being crushed, a child watching a bug before they step on it. I don't know how this became ingrained in the human condition, but for whatever reason we simply can't look away. It often brings to mind all the things we stand to loose, questions the value of our souls, and opens the door to reality just beyond our understanding. I know I'm often reminded of how fragile our existance really is, and how absurde the things we choose to have hope in. There are a lot of things that I've done that have taken me closer than I'd ever care to be, but I sometimes wonder if that's not where we are supposed to live in the first place.

Amy said...

Aaron, those are some really profound thoughts. thanks, again, for sharing them here. you've given me some great things to ponder.

Anonymous said...

What a frightening experience! So glad to hear that you, Steve and your house are all ok. We say a special prayer for those who used to live there and for their losses.

Anonymous said...

wow. very much a little to close to home. was there any damage to your house. soffits or window? if youre right about the brick, it saved at least replacing siding for sure. the long yellow poles are "pike poles," used to check for extension. Pulling all walls, ceilings, and sometimes floors that were exposed to fire to make sure it didnt get into the walls.

however, a very astute observation that that was indeed more thatn likely the room of origin! what time of day did this occur? do you know what room that was?

hope you are doing well!


Amy said...

hey, the "little" brother weighs in! :)

the firefighters got it under control pretty quickly, I think--from the outside, the damage looks like it was contained to the back corner where that window was. of course I'm sure there's plenty of smoke and water damage (at one point it looked like it was raining INSIDE that window, I assume water pouring down from up above). no idea what room that was--like I said, it's split up into apartments and I've never been inside. but the house doesn't look all that bad from the outside (well, not much worse than it already did). so I don't think the fire got big enough to really damage our house, thankfully. to someone as experienced as you, it probably wasn't big--it just was scary to me as I'd never been that close before!

it was about 8:45 am when I heard the sirens.

rebekah said...

amy, beautifully written words.