In one of the most surreal moments of my life this past Friday night, we watched our stables burn down. I debated writing this, as I usually try to focus on uplifting and positive posts on this blog. The world is full of so much sadness and hardships, that I want the blog a place where we can escape and be reminded of happiness. However, I am posting this here, as the blog is the only platform I currently have in place where I can publicaly express awareness and gratitude to those who selflessly jumped in to help us in our time of need. To me, this is the greatest example of human kindness.
My cell phone rang at 9:57pm. As usual, it is in vibrate mode on my bedside table. My husband was asleep next to me and I was falling asleep watching Breaking Bad. We have some pretty wild Friday nights around here if you can’t tell. I glanced at my phone and saw that it was my next-door neighbor (I will keep my neighbors’ name’s private out of respect), who would never call at that time of night unless something was wrong. I answered and heard her whisper “call 911”. I sat up in bed thinking the worst, that someone had broken into her home and she and her children were calling for help. My husband and I jumped out of bed to run over and assist her. She then shouted into the phone, “Ashley! Your barn is on fire!”
I hung up quickly with her to call 911, when my other neighbor on our street called and told me about the fire. I hadn’t even looked outside at this point, I just called 911 and gave them my address.
In my mind, I thought it must be a small and containable fire that we could put out on our own. I had hoped it was just one stable or so. When I stepped outside, I saw the enormity of the situation. The entire structure was fully engulfed! The roof had already melted and collapsed. The flames had overtaken each stall and were burning in a wind tunnel down the walkway. There was no way any of us could safely run into the building to salvage anything.
My heart was crushed as I thought about our nightly ritual of putting our pet goats and pig to bed. Each night we shut the door to their stable in order to keep out predators. I remember not putting the animals in their stable but assumed my husband did. Since there wasn’t hollering coming from the animals, I assumed they were already gone, and my heart broke. There was a flood of relief when I saw Pepper our pig running as fast as she could, which was surprisingly fast, towards our garden and chicken coop. Our goats Dolly and Dixie followed behind her. They were obviously scared and shaken up, but alive.
It was at this moment my neighbors showed up. Prior to this time, my husband was trying to fight the fire alone while I remained on the phone with fire dispatch. My neighbors jumped in and immediately took action. They started running hose, spraying down both the flames and our shop, which I noticed was starting to burn as well. I suddenly realized all the places where the fire could spread, including the propane tank which was right outside our house.
I cannot express my heartfelt thanks enough for my neighbors. They were truly all incredibly selfless! As I stood there on the phone with dispatch, completely stunned, they were running into the shop and grabbing out gas cans and tools. It is important to mention that one of my neighbors is in high school. How many high school kids do you know who would run into an unsafe, hot building to grab out cans of gasoline to help their neighbors?! I was terrified that someone would get hurt trying to battle the fire, as they were right in the middle of it. It was my neighbors who saved my shop and home until the fire department arrived. We could not have done it on our own. I will forever be thankful to them.
The fire department arrived 13 minutes after our first call went through. This may seem like a long time but based on where we live and the station location, it was actually pretty impressive.
Within minutes they were able to contain the fire, although the rubber mat flooring of the building continued to ignite for quite a while.
Our neighbors stayed with us, helping us process what had taken place and lifting our spirits, simply by being there. They knew many of the firefighters and introduced us once the blaze was contained. We all stood there in shock, both stunned and humbled.
Once it was safe to walk around the structure, we started evaluating what we had lost. The loss included items being stored in a couple stables which included: baby clothes, family heirlooms, my husband’s workout equipment and his bike, surfboards, home décor, antiques, a saddle and tack, tubs of books and photos. The firefighters walked us through and were incredibly compassionate and sensitive in helping us sift through our loss. They even pity laughed at my lame jokes. I am a fireman’s daughter and have been raised with gallows humor. Making inappropriate jokes at inconvenient times is just something I do. So, in that light, I should be thankful I didn’t become a person of interest for making the “thank goodness the bodies of my enemies are gone now, I was trying to find a way to get rid of them…” joke. I am so appreciative of the firemen that responded that night. They went above and beyond to put us at ease. We even discovered some mutual connections between these firemen and my dad, which was a comfort.
The fire investigator discovered the fire was due to an electrical short. Due to items such as rubber mats that were in the stables, it is now red flagged as a HAZMAT fire. This is difficult as I am aching to go out and clean it up, to protect my family from the toxins.
Although it is a relief to know there was really nothing we could do to prevent that in the moment, we still feel a heavy amount of sadness and guilt thinking of all of the ways we could have tried to prevent it. Due to the fire, I’ve overcompensated by unplugging every non-essential item in my house. It’s cold enough to not need a fridge right now anyway, right?! 😉
Truly, there has been so much silver lining in this whole situation, that it is hard to look at what happened and not feel full of deep gratitude. My brain is still trying to process that everyone is actually ok. Even though something shocking took place, it is not nearly as tragic as it could have been. I think of all the devastation that took place north of us in California this year and feel so humbled in comparison. My heart aches for those who experienced such tragedy and are still dealing with the aftermath of it all.
I feel so blessed to live in a small-town community where people genuinely care. The outpouring of love, support and offerings of help have been tremendous. We have been deeply moved by the compassion and empathy we have received from so many. Thank you all so much!
Based on our insurance settlement, we are eager to rebuild a barn to replace what we lost, and are hopeful we can afford at least the shell of a new barn after our insurance claim is settled. My dream is to be able to host a barn dance and BBQ for our neighbors, family and friends once all is said and done.
I want to express again my deepest gratitude for my neighbors, our local Fire Department, and for the love and generosity of all of those in our community, family, and friends. Your kindness is greatly treasured and does not go unnoticed.
Here are some of the before and after pictures: