I Lost It In the Fire

Last week about 2:30 on Sunday morning my wife and I were awakened to a blazing fire consuming the garage apartment building just a few feet behind our house. Seeing the two-story flames, we looked at each other and agreed that we needed to take a few essentials out of our house with us because losing both buildings seemed like a certainty. The wind was blowing from the South, the flames were huge and hot.


Firefighters arrived only four minutes after our 911 call. Water sprayed over the flames…and then stopped. Another truck arrived and after what seemed like an eternity, the water flowed again. Until it stopped. We had emptied two trucks and the fire was now involving the entire structure. After another few minutes—seeming like another eternity, a fire hydrant was connected and the water flowed for a long time. Quick action to spray down the back side of our house saved it. The vinyl siding melted off like wax but the fire did not spread. Even the smoke that invaded our house dissipated in a day or two. We were really blessed.


All during the week we kept realizing things that were likely lost in the flames. Our insurance company acted faster than the fire inspectors to settle the claim on the structure. By Thursday we were actively sifting through our belongings and trying to determine if any of the tools or the keepsakes survived the fire. We found a small plastic scoop for fertilizer intact inside a plastic tray that was upside down on the top of the rubble in the middle of the shop. My large wooden clamps were stored inside a metal cabinet and were smudged and sitting in a half inch of water but intact. Virtually everything else was lost.


I spent the day before the fire lamenting how cluttered my shop had become. I almost spent the afternoon cleaning it out and throwing away a lot of the junk before deciding to work on a firewood rack instead. It wouldn’t have mattered; I would have removed the things I didn’t want and the things I needed would still have perished. Let me get my rake…no, I lost it in the fire.


Lesson number one is take pictures of your belongings. When the fire comes, you won’t remember all you owned, especially what brand it was. Thankfully, our policy allows up to two years to keep on remembering.


The most important lesson? Everything material can be replaced. The priceless keepsakes that burned up cannot be erased from our memory. We may have lost the item in the fire but we still have the memory in our hearts. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured, the house was saved and my shop got cleaned out. At least it will be cleaned out when I haul off all the ash and debris.


Spend some extra time today making memories. Pull out the pictures that you may lose some day and rekindle the feelings they bring back through your memory. Contact the people who mean the most to you and thank them for their presence in your life.


I read this week about what makes people live a long life. With all our concerns about health and wellness, exercise and clean air, the number one predictor of a long life is Social Integration. Do you spend time with other people and have a few close friends or relatives you could call in the middle of the night to say, “My shop building is burning down?”


Relationships do matter. Build them, nurture them and cherish them.

Dr. Matt Crain writes weekly for the Sunday newspaper from his Connecting Fathers and Families ministry.