Monday, February 11, 2013

Fire Next Door!

On Friday morning, the house next to us started on fire.  As we were getting up and going for the day, I happened to glance out the window at the end of our hall upstairs, and saw three holes in the roof of the house next door with smoke coming out of them.

It took me a few seconds to process that meant that the house was on fire.  It had been recently purchased, after failing to sell at a city auction, and was in dire need of major repairs.  The man who bought it had been working on gutting it.  He was not living there yet - it would not be livable until spring, at least.

I ran to the phone and tried to call 911.  The phone didn't even register that a number had been dialed.  Tried again.  Dial tone.  Lucy was still on her bipap, watching a Sesame Street DVD.  I called my mom, pretty hysterical by this time, and asked her to call 911 for me, that the house next door was on fire.  I ran back to look at the house; still had smoke pouring out, but I could see no open flame.  I tried calling my husband Noah twice - no answer.  This was the day that, instead of being at work 10 minutes away, he was at a meeting at his supervisor's house, 40 minutes away.

I had to decide what to do.  I unhooked Lucy's feeding tube and bipap, begging God out loud to guide my actions and help me make the right choices, because I still wasn't hearing any sirens.  Now, our houses aren't reach-out-and-touch close, but by this time there was more smoke, and I wasn't thinking clearly.  To me, it was wholly possible that our house could fill with smoke, if not start on fire, and Lucy could not handle that.  I threw some pants on her and cheerfully told her we were going downstairs.  When I went past the window, I saw flames, and heard sirens.

I got Lucy laid out on her ottoman, and ran to the door, yelling out to the firemen who were showing up that I had a severely disabled daughter.  One man heard it, and I saw him point at me and relay the message, so I went back inside.  Couldn't decide if I should take her outside, where it was smoky, or wait in here.  Fire was growing.  Ran upstairs to unhook her bipap and grab it, in case the smoke smell got worse and she started to labor breathing.  The windows on the side of their house were broken, and flames were pouring skyward.  Firemen were just starting to get the hose through the front door, and the main of the fire was at the back of the house.  Ran down with the bipap.

Two women showed up then; a woman I used to work with and her mom.  They had seen the commotion and came over to see if we were okay.  I handed off Bert (who had tried to run away from me when I opened his kennel!) and gathered Lucy's machines together.  She relayed to me that the firemen wanted me to stay in my house, which was smelling worse and worse.  I ran up to grab her pulse ox; the upstairs was markedly warmer, and the fire was still blazing.  Nope, not staying here.

She ran out to tell the firemen that we didn't feel comfortable staying in the house.  I shoved Lucy's hi-low base out the door, threw out her bipap and pulse ox onto the porch, and handed her suction to one of the women.  I yelled for someone to get her hi-low down our stairs (a ramp is on the agenda for spring!) and carried her out.  A fireman offered to carry her, but I sent him back to grab her machines.  I got her on her hi-low and started to push her down the unshoveled sidewalk, away from the smoke and flames.  A fireman grabbed the front of her hi-low and helped to guide her over the snow, lifting her at an angle in the process.  She started to cough, whether from the smoke or the angle, not sure.  I looked around and realized the person holding all of her machines was standing in the middle of the road, and yelled for him to bring them over.  He started over slowly, so I had to yell that she was choking.  Got her machines, untangled the suction tubing from the bipap strap and pulse ox cord, and cleared her out.

We got her up over the snowbank and wheeled her around the corner to my friend's house, where we waited for Noah to show up and calmed down a little.  I really think Lucy was oblivious to all that was going on - the sun is bright to her, and unless she has sunglasses on, her eyes are closed.  She didn't seem scared or worried, and was looking around my friend's house like we were on a field trip :)  Her oxygen saturation was a little low, and my lungs hurt a bit and I was coughing, but over the course of the day her numbers came up.

Obviously, Lucy's situation being what it is, we've discussed plans for situations like this.  It's a little different when something actually happens, though.  We are very blessed that the fire was eventually contained, that it didn't start at night (the man had been there working that morning - he was gone to lunch when it started), and that it wasn't our own house.

This is the view from the window I was looking out.  It doesn't look like much.  Those windows were spewing orange flames, and smoke was billowing out of the hole in the roof, along with all the other broken windows.  Most likely, in my panic, alone with my baby, it looked much worse than it actually was.  Very thankful that that was the case.


Patient-Online said...

Thank you for your blog and the courage you and Lucy demonstrate. It is inspiring for me, one who has a brain disease which causes a movement disorder. I am moved by your stories and want to share your site with my blog readers, too. Thanks for becoming a member of mine. I am adding a link to my related links list. Best to you, Dan

Allen Hoffman said...

What you did was probably the best option, given that the smoke did get into your house later on. Though it may have been a small fire to begin with, it may still have jumped if there was flaming debris in the burning house, which thankfully there weren’t. Better safe than sorry.

Allen @ Brewer Restoration