Our house suffered a catastrophic house fire, and as such, we have been displaced from our home. We are opening this fundraiser as a response to the tremendous community support we have been receiving.
This was not the way I planned to start my day today.....
I awoke at 3 AM to a strange sound of crackling and popping coming from downstairs. I thought "What is our dog getting into down there?" I opened the bedroom door to go down and immediately saw lights from flames dancing agains the first floor wall at the foot of the stairs. There was also light smoke. I yelled "Fire!" and at the top of my voice "Paulette - call the fire department!"
My open door and the open window in our bedroom created a chimney effect drawing smoke right up the stairway. Within three seconds visibility went from 15 feet to about 2. I banged on Ryans door and screamed "Fire - Get out NOW!" We ran back towards the master bedroom intending to go down the stairway to the closest outside door but the smoke was clearly too bad.
"To the roof!" I yelled and we headed back into the master bedroom and scrambled through a window onto the roof of our large first floor back porch. I wish we had closed the bedroom door behind us, but there simply was no time. We had to get out NOW.
I was in only my bathrobe and the roof was covered with acorns and small branches. Fire was pouring out the kitchen window on the first floor and racing up the side of the house right next to the porch. Paulette was calling 911 on her phone, but our biggest problem was the dense smoke billowing out the window we had exited. It was actually making it hard to breathe even though we were outside. We tried to close the window but the smoke was too thick. For a moment I thought we might have to jump but then the wind shifted and the air cleared.
It was cold and the wind might shift again. I wanted to get us off of that roof without having to jump. I wanted to call a neighbor but I had left my cell phone just inside the window on my bedside table. The idea of going back in and trying to get it took about half a second to dismiss as ludicrous.
The 911 operator seemed to be asking Paulette about everything under the sun when we really needed to call a neighbor to get our ladder out of our shed so we could get to safety. Ryan mentioned that he had his phone. I told him to call Gail next door. Soon she was on her way. While waiting I asked Ryan to take some photos of the fire running up the back of the house next to our roof.
We kept calling for our dog Thor. Did he get out his doggie door in time? We were relieved to see him outside in the backyard below us.
Gail positioned the ladder and Paulette and Ryan climbed down. A fireman arrived and threw up another ladder and I climbed down.
Neighbors brought us shoes, clothes and coats and money for essential. It looks like the insurance will do a good job of covering the extensive damage. They say we should be back in our home within 10 months.
My wife has wanted a new kitchen for years. Judging from the photo below of the firemen in the kitchen/dining area, she'll be getting one soon!
No more than 90 seconds elapsed from my getting out of bed to us being on the roof. It was probably less than 60.
I am thankful that both Ryan and Paulette had their phones w/ them. I don't think any of our neighbors knew anything was amiss until they heard sirens. The only reason we didn't have to jump was that we had a roof to escape to.
I thank God for His hand of mercy in all this. Our smoke detectors, which Paulette checked annually, did not go off. They are now just long drips of plastic on our hallway wall.
The road ahead will be a lot of work. But I know God will bring good from this. Rom 8:28.Here is a link to a local TV News article on this. My wife did a great job on the video interview: https://wtkr.com/2019/11/14/3-people-escape-james-city-county-fire-with-help-from-neighbor-and-firefighters/?fbclid=IwAR03Zg1zbDh9l8IghSU-wGg-dVtYCsmd2pm4wH6ovz9rxmRZySwe1VORVOc
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