Sunday, January 31, 2010

No, you can't stay in your house while they repair fire damage

I was a deer in the headlights when we had our fire. I remember standing across the street watching the firemen parade through my home and suddenly remembered I did not have a purse, a debit card, a phone or even shoes (and we were standing in snow). I was wearing my Santa apron and had raw meat on my hands from the meatballs I was making. It would be a few hours til I realized I needed to wash my hands and a day until we remembered we needed to eat.

I had a mild panic, wondering where we would go for the next few days while they cleaned everything up. I was lucky and a fireman brought out my working iPhone (Mike's melted but that is a different story). I texted my friend 'house burning down' and she texted 'ARE YOU SERIOUS?' followed by a phone call. I asked her if we could stay with her for a few days while they cleaned up the home.

Then Red Cross came and asked if we had a place to stay until we found temporary housing. I said we would stay with friends for a few days and then maybe head up to see my family in Ohio for a little while since it was Christmas break. He gave me a weird look and a number to call if we wanted counseling for ourselves and the children along with a debit card to help with immediate expenses.

I called the insurance company to let them know what happened. They asked how long we needed to be in a hotel. Not thinking I said, 'I guess til Monday' (it was Friday)' . They just gave us the name of a hotel and confirmation number followed by the comment that they would check back on Sunday to see how we were on finding temporary housing.

I kind of ignored the temporary housing comment. We could just go to Ohio for a couple of weeks.

Then the firemen left and a 'disaster repair' company came by to look at the house with us. There were still some walls and I was thinking how we could sleep with a large gap in the exterior wall in the kitchen. We'd have to get it fixed quickly. It was very cold outside.

The man from the company told us they would have people to board up the house that day and to remove all valuables and firearms (because there are real jerks who watch the news and rob people who just had a house fire).

He went on to discuss how they would take the stuff and clean anything they could and even store it til we moved back in.

I was caught off guard.

"You mean we can't move back in after you board it all?" I asked.

He bit his lip and said, "Ma'm you won't be able to move back in here for at least four to six months. They need to take out everything to get rid of the smoke smell, demo the walls, remove the installation and ........."

His voice trailed off and I suddenly realized we would not be home after a quick vacation to Ohio. The term 'temporary housing' now made sense. This would not be a quick job.

He then mentioned to try an salvage a few clothes to put on a rush job. I don't even know what I grabbed. I put them in a basket and he said they would get the clothes to us in a few days and the rest of the stuff in 30-45 days.

Neighbors brought clothes and shoes. I don't know what we would have done without them. Honestly don't. None of us shoes on when we ran out of the house. Neighbors took us in their home and gave up their plans to help us. And it was Christmas, nothing, not even Wal-Mart was open.

That night when we checked into a hotel, I don't remember much but getting into their bathtub and trying to get out the smoke smell (it really is the most pungent smell you can imagine). I slept like the dead, we all did.

The next morning was even more of a blur. A neighbor brought me to Wal-Mart the day after Christmas to get things we needed to live. I thank God she was there. I had no idea--we needed toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair brushes, underwear (!!!!), socks, shirts, shoes. I honestly did not even think about fashion or what was cute. I just needed stuff. A month later, I don't even remember what I bought.

There was also a flurry of people who stopped by our hotel that day. Every single one of them was so incredible and kind. I was in such shock---I don't remember what we even talked about.

Even on Monday when we met with the adjuster (Mike had already spoken with him a few times), I was still in a daze. The adjuster told us to stay in the hotel til we found a rental house (luckily Mike did that stuff for a living so it was easy) and not stress about finding one over the holidays. I had completely forgotten it was the holidays by this point. The whole situation was getting clearer as he explained anything with plastic would be trashed and they would try and salvage whatever we thought was important.

Slowly I was grasping things. A company would take all that needed to to cleaned and then demo the damaged areas. And we would need to live in a different home, for a while.


Heidi Day said...

OH my goodness. I am so glad you are ok physically. This helps me to understand what happened to you all in those first moments and days. Bless your heart.

Dawn said...

I cannot even imagine how hard that would be to live through. Just reading your post brought me to tears.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Lisa, you are still in my continual prayers. I wish there was something I could do. If you can think of one single thing, no matter how small, please let me know.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Wait, did you say already, did you lose your cars too?

KC said...

OH Lisa... I"m sitting here in tears reading this.. Praise God that you all were not harmed in this fire.. but my heart still breaks for the things you lost inclueding your Christmas, and for all you have been though since. You are all still in my prayers.

mah-meeee said...

Oh my goodness! I didn't know what one have to do after a house fire... I totally thought the same as you that you can just move back after they board up the damage.

So sorry to hear about what you have to go through.... my heart sank as I was reading this post.