Our House Was On Fire

Two weeks ago Phill, Beth, Dottie and I went to Halifax to visit our friends.

On the way we visited a farm and had a lovely time.  We fed the cows and lamas and cooed over baby piglets.  Then Dottie had an epic tantrum, the likes of which Daddy and Beth had heard about but never actually seen.  It was one of those ‘the power of Christ compels you’ type tantrums.

When we got home it was dark and cold.  I think it was starting to rain a little but I can’t remember.  I was a bit distracted because in our absence, our house had been on fire.

The whole house was filled with a thick, acrid fog which got worse as you moved towards the kitchen.

The kitchen light wouldn’t work so I grabbed the only torch I could find which was a black light I’d used for my glow in the dark cocktails.  It wasn’t the best choice because however scary the aftermath of a kitchen fire is, it’s at least 3746392 times more scary under a black light.

Straight away I had a fair idea of what might have happened.

We have a ceramic hob.  We also have two cats.  On several occasions we’ve come home to find the hob switched on after one (or both) of the cats has sat on/walked on/ slept on/fought on it.  But previously we’ve just run in and switched it off in a panic.  No real harm done.  This time there had been a fire.

On the worktop were empty pizza boxes from the night before, an empty cat biscuit box and a few other bits waiting for recycling.  It looks as though at some point one (or both) of the cats has investigated this pile of curiousities and nudged the onto the hob just enough for them to catch.  Which they did and completely ruined the kitchen.

It was all over by the time we got home.  The remains of the fire were cold, the electrics having tripped and the cardboard mercifully burning itself out just before it reached the gas inlet   The smoke had gone everywhere.

When ‘they’ talk about house fires, ‘they’ always say that it’s the smoke that does the most damage.  ‘They’ say it and you listen, but until you experience it for yourself, you can’t possibly understand.

What one person unhelpfully referred to as a ‘little cooker fire’, has resulted in us having to throw away all of our soft furnishings – mattresses, cushions, pillows, quilts.

We’ve lost every single scrap of food in the house.  Everything in my carefully curated spice cupboard, every ounce of flour, every packet of rice, pasta, couscous – gone.  Cereals, frozen food, tea bags – in the bin.  Everything I’d squirrelled away for Christmastime.  It’s all gone.

We’ve scrubbed walls and floors, again and again but the soot keeps settling.  Upstairs in the bedrooms, I found that lipsticks had soot inside the lids and my beloved vintage clothes were far from protected inside my wardrobe.

Dottie’s book collection has had to be individually cleaned and poor Beth, who’d been revising in her room the night before, has had to muddle through mock exams with blackened school books.

How much fabric is in your home?  We have lots.  Curtains, linens, craft fabric, blankets, soft toys and clothes.  We have a lot of clothes.  Currently I have 1 pair of jeans, two tops and a painting outfit on my possession, because the rest of my wardrobe, the rest of the fabric, is spread around the homes of friends and family who kindly took bags full to wash and dry – some needing several trips through the wash to remove the smell.

This bit of ceiling is on the stairs. Several people tried to clean it before we gave up and painted over the smoke damage.

At first glance the rooms outside of the kitchen might’ve appeared to be in good condition – apart from the smell.  But look closer and you’ll see that everywhere is filthy.  Yep – every single room needs to be repainted and the kitchen?  It as a lost cause.

The fire destroyed the hob and damaged the worktop.  The extractor fan was burnt as were the wall-mounted cupboards.  Even the cupboards on the other side of the room were black inside.  We quickly realised that it wasn’t logical to try and salvage it.  When you’re questioning whether it’s safe to use your kettle again, you know you’ll never feel comfortable cooking for your children in that room.

Not sure whether to call 999 or not, we drove to the fire station and knocked on the door!

During their visit the firefighters were blown away by how lucky we were.  The fire had narrowly missed a large bottle of olive oil and the flames had been just a couple of feet away from the gas inlet!

We might’ve come home to find our whole house burnt down and instead we didn’t lose anything that can’t be replaced.  Not a single photo was damaged.  My vintage glass and china is very dirty but undamaged and most important of all, none of us were hurt!  Though thinking about the smoke damage to my daughter’s beds still makes me queasy.

You can see where Dorothy’s teddy and blankets were.

Shaken we made our way to my parents’ house where we’ve been staying ever since – except Beth.  So that she can get to school each day, Beth’s been staying at her friends homes where she’s been looked after so well that at one point I feared she wouldn’t want to come home ?

I’ll never forget the feeling in the pit of my stomach when Phill told me he’d been advised that our insurance had lapsed.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t think.  I just lay in the dark, wide eyed, struggling to let the information sink in.

In some ways I think the less said about that, the better.  It goes without saying that we regret the situation.  It wasn’t planned!  Nor was it the result of a lack of care.  It was the result of fatigue and the distraction caused by complications after Dottie was born.   It was a mistake, an accident and my Husband hates himself for it.  But there’s no point in him or anyone else dwelling on the past.  Our energy is better spent fixing the house and getting our family home for Christmas.

love Rachel ❤️


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