Fire! Fire!

*** I started writing this within 24 hours of the fire. It's being posted after that time mainly because I was in serious need of sleep!!! ***

I think I am still trying to calm down from my evening last night. I'm not kidding... 24 hours later and I'm still feeling like it was dream.

Reagan took a LATE nap last night and didn't wake up until about 6:30 - but Kyle and I were so engrossed in other things going on that we just let her sleep. So, we had already decided to let her stay up later than normal - we just had no idea that it would be WAY later than we planned on! We made a late dinner and put Reagan in bed around 8:45. We both were exhausted and came downstairs to lay on the couch. We'd been down here probably 3 minutes... seriously no more than that when there was knocking on our BACK door!!! Talk about freaking you out right then and there - we don't have the kind of house that people usually come to the back door. Luckily we knew it could only be one person - our neighbor Adam. But we had no idea why he'd be knocking on our BACK door?! Kyle answers the door and Adam says "Hey, you might want to get some water going on your fence and the back of your yard, the house behind us is on FIRE!!!!" Kyle starts to head out and I ask him what Adam had said, he tells me about the fire behind us and we both head outside to see flames at least 15ft in the air - RIGHT BEHIND OUR FENCE!!!! I can not explain the panic that ensued after this...

Let me go backwards a little and explain the house behind us... When we chose this lot, we did so because it was at the edge of the neighborhood - there would be no new homes behind us and the land back there is not large enough or in an appropriate location for any type of business development. And those concerns are only valid IF the lady who owns the land agrees to sell it, which she has adamantly refused to do - and on good authority we know she's been offered quite a hefty deal for it, and still refused. So, the lady owns the 8 acres behind us (although she does not currently live there, the trailer was vacant) and it is sandwiched between three different neighborhoods and there is not an actual road leading onto the property - only a caliche road. So, yes eventually we COULD have homes in our backyard, but in the foreseeable future, none. Or at least the foreseeable future before last night...

Here is a picture that shows you where we live in comparison to the trailer:

Here is another view from our bedroom window...

This picture gives you a better idea of the proximity - the weed in the middle of nowhere just a little to the right of center is about where our fenceline is. Just beyond the telephone pole is the trailer. Not only did the trailer catch fire, but so did all the land around it.

So, it's about 9:15 at this point... Kyle and I step out to the massive flames behind our home and luckily... before the panic set in, I was able to talk (coherently) and realize the police needed to be contacted. Luckily, our neighbor Melissa (Adam's wife) had already called. I decided to call again, because we have problems with emergency response where we live. The city of Schertz thinks we belong to Cibolo, the City of Cibolo thinks we belong to New Braunfels, the city of New Braunfels thinks we belong to Guadalupe County... on and on and on.... I wanted to be sure somebody was responding to us. I call 911, the dispatcher answers "911 - Are you calling about a fire?" "Yes." "We have reports of a fire on Maxfli, we are trying to respond to it, but we don't know how to get there." Genius, I think... pure genius. First, the fire itself is not on Maxfli... it's behind us. So, I start to explain to her how to get to the fire. She then SHUSHED me and said "Thank you, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye." Yes, 5 times. Ummm.... hello?! REALLY?! You shush me and then patronize me like I could not hear the other four times you said bye?! Completely unprofessional. I more than understand that your job is highly important. I also understand that you may be the only person available to answer emergency calls. I further understand that it's never wise to keep a dispatcher on the phone too long. HOWEVER... if I am trying to HELP you, send me to somebody who does have the time to listen to me. Also... do not act like I'm worthless. Thank you.

Once I get off the phone, I realize the fire is just absolutely gigantic. I mean, if I though it was big before, it's huge now. Truly. Unfortunately, at this point, with panic starting to set in - we didn't think to grab the camera and take pictures. We do have some pictures of the fire after the firefighters had been battling it a while.

Panic is a nasty, scary and unwanted feeling in any situation. It just grips you and turns everything upside down, even more so than it already is. Panic has the ability to produce absolutely irrational responses and drains any and all ability to make appropriate decisions. Panic is what I experience when I realize I can't find my daughter on the playground but I KNOW she is there. Panic is what I experience when I see the total at the grocery store go over $100. Panic is what I experience when Kyle doesn't start to brake the exact instant I think he should. So, you see... panic... in it's mildest form is something I basically experience daily. OK, well not daily... but often. Last night?? That was like super panic! That was panic on massive amounts of steroids AND crack. That was like panic... well - I think you get the picture, yeah??

So... long story, short... I panicked. Massively. I immediately started screaming about leaving the house. I couldn't imagine a scenario in which I could stay in the house one more second. The fire was still blazing. When you walked outside, you felt the heat radiating. You smelled the smoke and could feel the ruin in your bones - deep in your bones, it's a feeling I've never felt - total destruction - and rapid... so rapid. While I'm freaking out - and almost hyperventilating, might I add (do you see how bad this was?! how self-destructive I was to myself?! ugh...) my husband... my "I will stand and save this hallowed ground or I will die!" husband... was extremely concerned with watering the yard and fence. Do you see where this gets nasty?? I'm begging him to leave with me, he's standing solid on his thought that the ground and fence must be wet. Not so great. This will be a more important point later - and not one that says who was right and who was wrong (although, hello - save your life before your house)! But, not passing any judgment... house is insured, wife and child are not. But seriously, who is to say who is right and who is wrong?! *cough* me *cough*

There are no emergency responders responding. It's been about 20 minutes since I called, almost 30 since Melissa called. Melissa and I head out front to see if we can find or help the police/firefighters. As we walk out, here comes a cop. We run into the street waving our arms for him to stop. Now, let's analyze this. This is a cop car I am talking about. 1 cop. 1 car. 2 women frantically flagging you down in front of two homes that have fire immediately behind them. Wouldn't your "I need to help these people" instinct kick in? He speeds past us - to the end of the street - only to realize he can't get through to the fire from there and turn around and speed right by us again. Then the second cop car... same thing. I'm running down the street at this point. Third cop car at least stops at the end of the street. I'm still running down the hill, and I hear a neighbor telling him he must go back to caliche road. He is out of his car and walking towards the fire, trying to figure out how to get a firetruck where a firetruck cannot go. Not a single officer stopped to listen to us. Now, I realize as an officer, you probably encounter numerous idiots. However, sometimes you need to give the general public the benefit of the doubt and listen to us. I'm not mad at all cops - this is just in this situation - but yes, I'm furious at the people who responded last night. Especially the police. But that's another story... Finally, I head home, running back up the hill.

I get back in the house, completely winded. Kyle tells me to go get Reagan. Oh, yes! Hello! My child, who at this point is trying to fall asleep, in her bed, UPSTAIRS! Reagan is upstairs, I am downstairs. I need to get her near me. Let me say... the fire is large. It is large and totally in charge - that's the scary thing about fire - it's one of the few non-living (some could argue the living title) objects that is in total control while it is on earth. You've heard of controlled fires? Yeah, nobody is ever actually in control of fire. You may know how to handle fire, how to deal with fire, how to put out a fire... but there is no true way to know how to control fire because when there is fire - the fire is in control. So, this huge fire is raging away. THANK THE SWEET LORD BABY JESUS that the wind was blowing the fire and smoke parallel to our house. Had the winds shifted at ANY time, the fire would have been on top of us in a heartbeat, maybe sooner. And while I poke fun and use a movie quote... in all seriousness, you can't imagine the amount of times I've praised God for the wind last night. I really didn't want Reagan to be upstairs and have to try to get her from her room and get back downstairs and out of the house in the case that the winds did shift and it became imperative that we leave the house. I run up the stairs, yelling at Reagan "Baby, get up, get out of bed, run to your door, meet me at the door baby!" I walk in her room, and she is lying in bed - staring at me! "Momma? You want me to get out of bed?!" "Yes child! Get out of bed! There is a fire, we need to leave the house!" So much for not alarming the children... :/ We get back downstairs, it's about 9:35. I am begging Kyle to leave the house with me, he's insisting the fence needs to be watered, I'm beyond panicked. Time to get the big guns out... time to call my mom.

Most moms can tell when their child doesn't sound right on the phone. Some mothers can sense this before they even say hello. Other moms can tell just by the way the phone rings. It just rings differently when your child is in trouble, doesn't it?! No?? Yeah, it does.... My mom, I think... knows by the way I breathe. As I lay into what is happening, I'm hysterical. I'm crying, I'm shaking, I'm still winded from running up and down the hill and then up and down the stairs... My poor daughter asks me "Momma, is my jumpoline going to be on fire?" *screech!* My world comes to an absolute halt. What am I doing?! Thankfully, she is calm. Resolute, even in her fear that her beloved trampoline may not make it to see daylight. I am able to calm myself at this point. I realize that this hysteria benefits nobody and begin to assure her, in what I'm positive is a lie, that her jumpoline (as she calls it) will be perfectly untouched and we will jump on it tomorrow. As we watch the fire, I realize there are still no responders actually near the fire. It's about 9:50 now - 30 minutes after I called 911 and at least 35-40 minutes after Melissa called and the first lights begin to appear behind the fence. 35-40 minute response time for an under 10 minute drive. I'm furious.

At this point, I feel relief. Somebody is here to help. No matter what anger I feel towards them for not responding sooner, for not listening when we tried to help... that doesn't matter - just put the fire out. Reagan and I spent our time between watching the fire from the windows and watching it from the front yard. At least 100 neighbors were gathered in the yards across the street. That is eerie... when you realize that these people want to be comfortably close to the fire and they're not near your home... when you walk out and they all look at you as if to say, "I'm so glad that's not me." It took about an hour for the fire to extinguish. They were able to put the fire out on the ground rather quickly but then couldn't get the fire in the house out. They had to allow the house to burn itself down, collapse and then they were able to put the fire out.

Now, let me point out one more large problem I have... my husband and Adam were out in the back and Adam was even on the other side of the fence some. Not a single officer or fireman asked them ANYTHING. They didn't ask if they knew how it started, heard anything, saw anything suspicious. And afterward, did they speak to us? Nope. Not a word. I thought, maybe they'd come by the next day after work hours to interview some of us who might have information about how it started?? Nope. Of course, none of us really know anything - but Adam can give a better timeline. He was watering his yard and heard a pop - didn't think much of it at the time. But that's something, isn't it?! I don't know... nothing about the response gave me the warm and fuzzies. That's for sure.

Once the fire was out, they all began to pack up and head out. Reagan got to watch the firemen load up the hoses and leave and for her, that was really cool! We finally were able to put her back in bed around 10:45. In all, the ordeal lasted around 2 hours, but man... it felt like at least 6 hours!! I wasn't sure I'd be able to sleep. What if the ground sparks up again? But, when we went to our room, around midnight, there was still a fire marshal truck outside and that made me feel a little more secure. I did sleep, but oh my! When I woke up, I was still just as jittery as I was the night before. It will take some time to get over it, I suppose.

Earlier, we went for a walk - back there - to see the damage first hand. It was sad... so scorched. I'm just so grateful nobody was living there. But that leaves me to wonder, what happened? In this day and age, when you hear "vacant home" and "fire" in the same sentence, you think meth lab... but I'm sure this wasn't the case. There would be more signs of a crime scene... and this has no tape. Maybe it was her gas line? Maybe it was electrical? I'm not sure if I'll ever know, but I will try to find out.

Here are some pictures of the fire - again, these are after the firefighters were here, so the fire in these pictures is about half (or less) than the original size.

This was taken with Kyle's cell phone, so the quality is not very good. He was standing on Reagan's trampoline further back in the yard. This was after the firemen had been fighting it about 40 minutes.

This was taken from the end of the street by a neighbor. This is the area the police couldn't get through - the posts and all... The bright line just beyond the telephone pole is our fence.

So... back to the point I made earlier about leaving vs. staying and who is right and who is wrong.... I'm not sure what the best thing is to do in that situation. I tend to err on the side of caution at all times. I'd much rather be safe than be sorry. After it was over and Kyle and I began to talk about the emotions we were dealing with, and how much they differed, I realized we really need to make an emergency plan. And *aha!* perfect place to put this plan...?! My new Home Organization Binder!!!!!! Right?! Genius!

I know it is suggested that you have an emergency plan in place and that you begin to educate your children as soon as they can comprehend this. So, our new task as a family is to develop a plan for fire, bad weather, and other various forms of emergency. In Corpus, we dealt a lot with hurricanes, and you think being this far inland we'd be immune to a hurricane, but you'd be SO surprised at how bad the weather gets here with a hurricane coming in from the gulf. And here, we're prone to tornadoes much more than in Corpus, and hurricanes love to spawn a tornado. So, it's still very important that we have a Hurricane Preparedness plan. And you know... every emergency is different - there is no format by which they follow, no blueprint from which they build. But, if we can have some concrete plans that we made in a rational light, then it will help to minimize the panic and keep our family out of harms way.

Do you have an emergency plan in place for your family?

What does it look like?

Do you have emergency supplies on hand, in case?

Where do you go to learn the most you can about how to protect yourself in the event of a disaster?

What items would you take with you if you had to evacuate your home and were unsure if the structure would survive?

These are all questions Kyle and I need to answer and prepare for. And we need to find ways to help Reagan learn how to deal as well.

I know this post was seriously long... but I wanted to write out my story about the fire, mostly for future reference and for memory. The most important aspect of this experience is what we take from it - what we walk away from it with. For me, I walk away knowing that we are safe and in the hands of God. That my family has been untouched and unharmed and that we REALLY need to have a better grasp on reality next time around. Hopefully, there will never be a next time - but the only thing in life that is predictable is the fact that life is completely unpredictable. So... I'd rather plan for the worst and live the best than plan for the best and not have a clue what to do in the worst. This was a big reality check for me. I wouldn't say I almost died, or anything of the sort - but I will say that the experience opened my eyes to the things I've left undone - most notably the fact that my family does not have a plan. We need a plan. You got a plan? No...?? Get one! I'll help - I'll upload ours after we make it.

Thanks for reading if you did stick it out to the end, haha! All I can say now is... wow, what a night!