In Flames

It started out as just another busy morning, that Tuesday in July. I had gotten ready to go into work for a few hours before catching a business meeting. Kathie, my wife, and Jennifer, my daughter, had just come back from the orthodontist, where Jennifer had her braces removed. I said goodbye to them and told them I would see them later that afternoon to go out for dinner and a movie. I left at 8:00 a.m. while Kathie and Jennifer left the house to doing some back to school shopping an hour and half later.
My day was moving along quickly and I soon found myself at my meeting. We were just wrapping up the discussion when I received a phone call that would change my perspective on life. It was my workplace calling me to tell me that a neighbor just called and my house was on fire! I was in a state of shock and disbelief I quickly grabbed my things and raced out to my car. As I approached the Idaho Stateline on the freeway, I could see the black smoke billowing up several miles away. I suddenly remembered that Kathie and Jennifer might still be home. When I called, I received no answer. Still in shock, I could not remember my wife''s cell number so I phoned work. They had already informed Kathie and Jennifer about the fire. They had left to go shopping, which turned out to be 30-40 minutes before the fire began. As soon as I heard they were okay, I breathed a sigh of relief Almost as quickly I remembered that our dog, Patches, was still at home. I concentrated on driving and got to our house as fast as possible.
As I turned the comer onto our street, I witnessed a sight I would like to forget. My house engulfed in flames and surrounded by fire trucks, television trucks, and neighbors from all around. As I was exiting my car, a neighbor lady came running up to me in tears. She hugged me and expressed how sorry she was about our loss. I walked over to witness this horrible sight and saw that the fire had spread over to the neighbor''s house. The mental fog continued. The next thing I saw was a reporter sticking a camera in my face to interview me. I just looked at the camera and answered his questions. Then I regained some sense of reality and focused on finding my dog. I talked to several neighbors and discovered that Patches was safe in a yard down the street. I was so overcome with joy! I ran over and got her out of the yard and hugged her like there was no tomorrow. Soon, Kathie and Jennifer were there to witness the awful sight and we consoled each other as we watched the firefighters to their best to put out the flames. The fire boat arrived and was a major factor in knocking down the fire. After what seemed forever, and the combined effort of five fire departments the fire was out.
Going back into the house was an eerie experience for all of us. The garage was totaled and the storage above the garage was vaporized. All of my wife''s family pictures and our family Christmas decorations were stored there. Along with my entire daughter''s stuffed animals and childhood toys. The downstairs was a disaster! All of the rooms had been scorched and the television and computers were literally melted. The rest of the house was considered a total loss due to the smoke and water damage. When we went upstairs and into the hall before my daughter''s room we had a small plastic cross hanging on the wall. During the fire it fell off and was gone except the imprint of it remained on the wall from the smoke. Jennifer''s closet was behind that wall where the cross was and right next to the garage. Amazingly enough, all her clothes and items in that closet were not destroyed. In our bedroom across from Jennifer''s room, our items including pictures and some clothes and other valuables were okay. Kathie''s oak desk was in that same hall and it contained all of our important papers-- all were saved! After seeing this the remains of our house, we all felt God''s presence was in our house during the fire and was protecting our vital belongings. Here we were experiencing most people''s worst nightmare yet there was a strange calm and peace that was settling over our family. We all realized that losing some of our family heirlooms and pictures hurt yet all of the other stuff was just that -stuff. We had each other no one was hurt and even our dog was okay! Through the prayers of friends and neighbors God was comforting us. I can''t explain the feeling, even in the midst of despair, we felt that we would get through all of this. I was so impressed by my daughter and how she was handling the whole ordeal. We had a heart to heart talk about what had happened and what would be in store for us. Her faith shone through and I was amazed at her positive attitude.
I had managed to call my insurance agent in the midst of the fire and he was there within 30 minutes and the claims adjuster arrived 2 hours later with finances for food, clothing and lodging. The neighbors were incredible; everyone wanted to help any way they could. One neighbor lent me his truck and another was leaving on a trip and let us stay in their house for several days so we could get our bearings. We had churches find out about our fire and they sent food and gift certificates to restaurants, toiletries and vital clothing. At my business, there was an outpouring by my customers. Everything from food, pots and pans, towels silverware, cards, gift baskets and other items! We were literally overwhelmed! At times like this, it is so wonderful to see how people come together to help each other. By the end of the week we had many people in Post Falls, Ogden, Utah and Yorba Linda, CA praying for us. Wrth this support our family was able to get through the hard times and move on with getting things put back together. Praise the Lord for bringing people together to help each other in times of crisis!
It has been four months since the fire and we are about to move back to our remodeled home and start a new life there. Like a forest fire is necessary to remove old growth and debris so the forest can be renewed, so has this fire cleansed our lives.
Through this life event God has taught us several lessons. Things are only things and you can''t take them with you (believe me it''s true). Our time on this earth is special and we should spend more time with family and friends and be there in times of need. We thank our Lord for the comfort and support he has given us through our family, friends and this wonderful community. May God bless you all!