Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Long time between drinks

I have been missing in action for a few weeks, but I think a complete mental breakdown is a mighty good excuse!

It all began at 4 in the morning on Sunday July 1st, DH and I were asleep, the two younger kids (Tiger and Rosie) were in their rooms asleep as well, while the oldest (Batman) and 2 friends were in the self-contained flat attached to the house. Batman came running into our room saying the flat was full of smoke. DH pulled on a pair of pants and ran outside, by which time there were flames shooting out of the door and the trees in the courtyard were on fire. Luckily all the boys were out.

The power went out with a bang, I rang for the fire brigade, woke Rosie and took her out on to the street. The skylights melted and the flames shot 30 metres high. More trees on fire. Neighbours came running and yelling. I ran back in to the main house and sent the older boys outside with Rosie, but Tiger refused to leave until his father did. The damn expensive 'non-kinking' garden hose had a kink in it and no water would come out, so DH was running in circles trying to the culprit, while Tiger bravely aimed the hose at the inferno.

We live in a country town, so our fire brigade is made up of volunteers. The fire captain lives just down the street and arrived on foot but it seemed to take such a long time for the trucks to arrive. When they did they arrived in force - 5 trucks, an incident van, breathing apparatus van, 4 police cars, red cross.

The fire captain soon got Tiger and DH out of the house, and so we all stood across the road in various states of undress and watched these huge flames leap into the sky. Those flames are coming from OUR HOUSE! It was so cold, so unreal. Neighbours brought over blankets and coats and offered hot drinks. DH rang the Screaming Banshee and asked her to come get the kids. Tiger refused, but the others all left. Gradually the flames died down, the mood became less agitated, neighbours wished as well and went back to bed.

Around 6am the fire captain told us we could come and look around. Only two rooms of the main house were damaged but the flat was completely gone, nothing was recognisable.

3 things saved our house:
1 - we have a flat tin roof so there was no roof cavity for the fire to travel into,
2 - the flat was a late addition to the house, so there is a double brick wall between them,
3 - the CFA had crews standing by the gas bottles (we don't have LPG here) and the gas tank in Batman's car in the flat's driveway.

Only 1 small thing saved our lives:
1 - the smoke alarm that woke one of the boys in the flat.

I am good in a crisis, level-headed and proactive, but crash really badly. Shock set in late Sunday afternoon after all the insurance workmen, fire investigation people, neighbours and family had gone. I think I cried for 4 days straight after that thinking of all the what if's (I hadn't unlocked the deadbolt on the front door of the flat - what if the fire had been at the back door! What if the smoke alarm hadn't worked. What if the hose had worked and DH had gone into the flat). Then the anxiety hit, a dead weight in my stomach, a feeling of dread that wouldn't go, hyper- alertness especially at night. The house stunk of toxic burnt plastic but I couldn't leave it, I would start to panic if the cats were late in at night. For the first few days we barely ate, barely slept. I am much better now, trying to act excited to the kids about getting a new flat screen tv and new couches and beds. The insurance company hasn't kicked in yet so the house still stinks and we have a fenced off pile of ashes and dead trees in our yard, but I care so much less now for materials comforts.

PS: Needless to say we are back to the IVF drawing board, the Clingons jumped ship the day of the fire (and I really thought that I was pregnant too).....