“The house next door caught on fire.”
That was the first message my wife sent me about the fire. She was home waiting for an outdoor patio furniture delivery. We’d been remodeling the back-yard and rear part of our house for about six months, and it was conveniently all finishing up in time for my daughter’s 3rd birthday party.
My parents were on the freeway headed to their hotel, the cake was ordered, and bags of party favors were piled up at the bottom of our staircase. The kids were in school and camp. My daughter had just started pre-school that week.
I could type for three hours about what has happened since that text was sent. While it was the house next door, the fire fighters had to enter our house with hoses and a chainsaw to cut a hole in the wall and fight the fire from my daughter’s upstairs bedroom.
Homes in San Francisco are built up against each other which makes fighting fires a little tricky. While the fire started next door, given the architecture of the two buildings it was inaccessible from that property. So they opened up our walls and sent a lot of smoke and water back into our home.
I’ve obliquely referenced some of it in short tweets and a few friends know the story, but the short of it is: it’s bad. Our insurance company thinks it’s going to be about three to four months before everything is back to normal. All our stuff is being hauled away to be cleaned or thrown out. I’ve slept in four different beds in less than a week.
There have been crews of every sort through our house and every day there’s a new team of people who specialize in something. There’s a team removing the water from the floors, another team cleaning all the clothes and textiles, another hauling away furniture, a fire investigator, a lead and asbestos testing lab, the insurance adjuster.
My daughter is three so she can still (mostly) roll with whatever we’re doing, but my son is seven and he just wants to go home and hang out in his room with his fish and books. Teachers and camp counselors ask us about the fire and I try to be careful about what I say in front of him because he definitely doesn’t want us talking about it to them.
Work has been very understanding. I feel guilty as hell about not being there, especially when a friend has taken over something I needed to be doing this week.
On the scale of tragedy it’s really not that bad. Nobody in our family was hurt. My wife saw the smoke and called 911 before anyone, which our insurance adjuster says is the reason our whole top floor didn’t get wiped out. My daughter still got to have her Paw Patrol cake. The insurance company (Farmer’s!) has been doing an amazing job at reassuring us it is all going to get taken care of and so far it appears that way. I can’t imagine our premium will ever total the amount it’s going to take to get us back to where we were.
On the scale of tragedies it’s hard not to feel like we actually did okay. This is hard but not impossible. My wife and I make a good team. Our daughter seems to think this is just another thing we’re doing. So my biggest concern is that my son gets through this okay and I know that’s going to take some work.
But I am just happy to have my family together at night reading books before bed—wherever that may be.