The night of the fire was pure craziness. After the initial adrenalin surge of getting what we could out of the house, it was several hours of standing around looking at the flames, lights and firefighters doing what they do best. It was chilly n windy out there in my flamboyant night gown and hoodie, and all the crazy lights made me a bit ill to watch it play out but, there wasn't much else to do except bum cigarettes and try to sooth the old dog who was wondering what was happening. The younger pup had run away from all the action and lights and was at that point missing in action.
At about 3 am or so we were told that the red cross was at the bottom of the driveway and a fireman told us that he had seen Percival hiding in the woods and that he was indeed ok. After heading to town and the hotel, we settled in for a few hours of something, though it certainly was not sleep. In the morning we headed back to the homestead to check on the critters and look at the mess. We were overjoyed to see the pup greet us and not so overjoyed at the all the work that laid ahead of us.
Where do you begin?
The red cross came and gave us vouchers for a few nights in the hotel and some new clothes or necessities but beyond that, there is no "after fire manual" that they give you. Do you have to call the power company, phone company etc? Do you have to wait for investigators and such before touching any of the mess? What on earth does one do with a ginormous pile of burned rubble and what the hell are we going to do were just a few things running through our minds on top of the big one ... Where oh where do you start cleaning it all up?
We chose to see if we could find our wallets because it seemed the most logical and easy task on no sleep and freezing cold temperatures! We did find them... kinda sorta! Though my purse was totally melted and the wallet was melted closed, I found my id, rewards card for the grocery store and my library card, all slightly melted but intact. He found his wallet, in not quite so good a shape, and though his license was there, his picture had melted off and our bank cards were melted into a nice, almost legible mess. This too was added to our growing list of what do we do now and we walked away to feed the critters since it was too danged miserable and cold to do much else.
Because it was a weekend, there was little that could really be done in the way of getting things taken care of. We did go to Walmart and begin purchasing clothes, food and other necessities. Little did we know how important that place would become over the next few weeks and how many trips we would have to make there. Good lord, we humans need and use a lot of stuff! The first week it was daily. Since we had no cellphone, we had to purchase one and then figure out how to make the thing function. We also began making twice a day trips to the homestead to tend the animals, look at the mess, get upset over it all and leave. We felt horrible for the dogs who had never been left alone for more than a couple hours and who now had no dry or warm spot for shelter. We opened the door to the cabin and greenhouse for them to get out of the weather, but neither had any interest in those spots, they wanted their porches.
Monday morning came and we could finally begin getting things done. I called the phone company and had the phone shut off. The fire department had already called the power company and had it shut off. I contacted work and let them know I would be out an extended period and that all their equipment (I work from home) had burned up. We went to the library to check in with people, whom we thought had no idea what had happened, only to realize that the entire world, and yes I mean the entire world knew already. Social media is a strange strange thing!
Apparently, the neighbor kid saw flames, some how managed to contact my daughter who made a post about it because she was worriedand wondering what happened to us. A friend in Australia happened to look at the fire department page, saw the fire pictures and made a post. Things and stuff spread from there and by the time we made it to let folks know we were still kickin n screamin, we both had approximately 75 messages waiting for us on facebook and threads a mile long on the subject. Though neither of us are overly emotional people, at this point we were both a bit overwhelmed by it all. Here we were fixxin to break the news to the world, but the world was way ahead of us.
Though the red cross paid for three nights in the hotel, we chose to use part of the voucher for a fourth night there. Not because we wanted to, but because it was in the teens, miserable out, and we were a bit wood stove shy after what had just transpired. We did not want to have to have a roaring fire in the cabin just after having a roaring fire burn the house down and we still did not have much bedding to keep warm.
After the fourth night, we were glad to get back to the homestead even though we had to constantly look at and walk through the mess to get to the cabin. It was much easier on us mentally to be home where our critters and mess was than to be driving back n forth then leaving them. It was easier to make that daily trip to Walmart from home than it was to drive from town, visit home for ten minutes, then go back to town.
During the first few days we also made some big decisions. We decided that it was the best choice for us to rehome the goats and chickens rather than to keep feeding them as we knew we were going to have to tend to other things rather than buying feed. The chickens were ready for butcher, and now we had no canner or knives to butcher them with. The goats were being used for keeping pasture down and providing fertilizer and that money could be better used elsewhere.
We also knew that we could not live in the cabin full time and would need a camper or something so that I could get back to work in the near future. The cabin, while nice and suitable for sleeping, is not able to have electric or internet run to it and space is very limited. Additionally, county codes and such would not allow for such a thing to occur.
The remainder of the first week is pretty much a blur. Every day was filled with town trips, mail runs, charity store runs, lots of messaging, texting, and phone calls (in a place with little or no reception and a technological idiot trying to do it all), and trying to get settled into the cabin. The chickens were rehomed and the goats were as well. The only thing I do remember is that we were very tired, busy, and rather overwhelmed by it all. Toward the end of the week, however, donations and offers of help began to arrive. A camper was found (it found us) and some friends offered to come help clean up at the beginning of the following week.
The biggest accomplishment was figuring out how to text and take a picture on that new fangled phone I had to get. I could not post them anywhere but I knew how to take them and I only sent a few empty texts to people and gave out wrong email addresses n such to folks a couple of times.