The house two doors away from ours was destroyed by fire in a matter of minutes. A young family with a son, age 4, and daughter, age 2, lived in that house. The father had left for work as usual that morning while his family still slept. But just as he was going to clock into work he got the phone call that his house had caught fire. Smoke alarms had awakened his family. His wife was sleeping in the same room as their daughter and his son in his own room. The mother yelled for her son to come quickly and he did. She said the smoke in the girl’s bedroom was so thick she couldn’t see her daughter’s face. Once both children were with her, she lifted the window and set them on a ledge of a roof outside the bedroom. She then climbed out with them and yelled for help. The little boy helped her yell.
Finally, a neighbor heard her calls for help and came to her rescue. He quickly located a ladder and got all three of them down to safety. Within four minutes of being called, the fire department was on the scene. It was just as they were coming onto our street that we had gotten outside, having received a call from our daughter-in-law who lives across the street telling us the house was on fire and that she had called 911 already. Ken was prepared to go inside that burning house to save those children. As we ran up the street, the firetrucks came down. Ken yelled as loud as he could, “There are children in that house, two little kids.” It was then that we were told they had gotten out all right and were sitting on a neighbor’s deck.
We watched in horror as the flames shot out of the living room window, then upward. Before long they spread to the other side of the house downstairs and smoke was curling out around the roof. All of this happened within less than a half hour of the father leaving for work to provide for his family.
The house that this family rented was gone along with all of their belongings. Four people united as a family had no place to live, no clothes to wear, no toys to play with, and no furniture. Yet through all this trauma they remained calm. Their parents arrived soon and held them close, took the children and carried them.
Today the house sits boarded up, charred wood and melted vinyl siding hanging. In the yard is some of the furniture the family had bought from Craig’s list, the black remains of a couch that her brother had slept on only weeks before. The children’s playhouse still sits in the backyard along with a small plastic sliding board. The father asked Kenny if he would take down his children’s trampoline and store it for him until they find another place to live.
Having no renter’s insurance, this family will have to start over. Through the good will of neighbors and friends, things are starting to come together. They have been given clothes and toys by the bagful, a donation of a used washer and dryer and stove. Already they are looking for another house to make into a home.
A house can be destroyed, repaired, replaced or you can move to a different one. But a home is something you build to last, no matter where that house sits. A home represents security, love, fun, family, laughter and stability. It is a place to relax and act yourself. A place to learn values, responsibility, about faith, government of body and family, respect. In a home there is always someone there for you.
Have you checked the batteries in your smoke alarm lately? Does that fire extinguisher you have even work or is it expired? Take a couple minutes today and check.
Smoke alarms that were all hooked together in this family’s home is what saved their lives. They made that house their home and will do so again in the next house they find. Good luck to all of them.