The Fire

I’m still not 100% sure of how it all went down but on December 6, I got a strange message from my mom, asking me to call her because something wasn’t quite right. I tried to call my parents on their home phone but got an automated message saying the number wasn’t working. I called my mom’s cell phone and although she sounded like things weren’t quite right, she assured me that it wasn’t anything and everything was fine.

Either the next day or so, I talked to mom again and she finally let me know there was a fire in their house and they were living in a hotel. I got more details from my dad when I spoke with him. The fire was in their full bathroom (they have one full bathroom and one toilet room) in the lighting unit. Now that I’ve seen the damage and heard the story a few times, I’ve pieced together most of what happened. My parents are just coming out of shock of it all and are able to remember more details of that night.

My mom had gotten home from work and one of them went to turn on the light in the bathroom and it didn’t work. My mom says it was really warm in that part of the house, too. Soon after, the lights and other electrical things in nearby rooms stopped working. My mom smelled smoke and went outside and saw smoke (no flames) coming from the roof. She had my dad call 911 and they said the Austin Fire Department were there within minutes. Luckily, they live about 5 minutes away from a station on Manchaca Road. They had to take out a lot of the ceiling and some parts of the wall to reach all of the fire but luckily, it was tended to so quickly, the fire (which was really all smolder, really) remained in that bathroom area and no one was hurt.

Now, it’s all about finding a good construction company to repair the house (some of the roof will have to be replaced, even) and a company that can remove the smell of smoke from the walls. That maybe the hard part.

So here’s what the damage looks like:
You can see the majority of the smolder was right by the doorway. There was a heater/light/fan thing installed there, which the fan went out on. All that was left was light and heat – good sources for fire.

Here, you can see that the fire had burnt out quite a bit of two of the crossbeams:

This is the breaker sub-panel that went out and caused the electricity (and potential for more fire) to stop flowing throughout the house. It’s right outside the bathroom so it didn’t have far to go to stop the flow of electricity:

This is in the living room, right above the couch…which is now destroyed from water damage. Not too much of a loss, it was an old couch.

They didn’t have to do too much damage to the ceiling and wall in the bedroom:

The insurance company was really good (at first) about getting them set up in temporary housing, first a extended stay hotel and now a one bedroom apartment, but I think that’s the end of unusually cooperative insurance company treatment. With some of the little things we’ve negatives encountered since I’ve gotten back, we’re starting to have a feeling that an insurance fight might be coming. I sure hope not ’cause none of us have the strength to go through that.

As far as rebuilding goes, it looks like it will be a minimum of 6 months before they can get back in the house. I’m thinking it will be closer to 9 months to a year. Luckily, I’m on the house note and insurance so I can help quite a bit while I’m away at school. Let’s hope for the best, though.

This house is 38 years old and I’m sure a lot of the wiring is just as old. If your house is fairly old and hasn’t had breaker panel maintenance or at least an evaluation from a licensed electrician, please have it done.

Love you, mean it.
~C

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