**Click here to read Part I**
As soon as the words house and fire escaped my mouth I heard "Oh my God" and the door swung open. Picking up the kids once more I ushered them into the entryway. The thing I remember most about this moment is that the boys had yet to make a peep. There was no crying. No screaming. No asking of questions. They were eerily silent. Shock, I'm sure.
"Can I use your phone?" I asked John. Almost immediately he handed it to me.
"Who do I call? 911?"
"Yes." He told me.
It seems odd I'd have to ask that question but I think I was just so out of it. Still so confused as to what exactly was going on.
"911. What’s your emergency?"
"Yes, our house is on fire."
"What is your address?"
"xxx Xxxxxxxx Xxxx"
"Is everyone and all animals out of the house?"
"We are all out. Our dog is out. Our cat is still in there."
"Can you move the cars out of the garage?"
At this point in the conversation I was standing at our neighbor’s window, one hand holding the phone, the other on my face in a state of shock, looking at our house and seeing a large ball of orange flame in one of the windows. My mind was still too fuzzy though to actually put together what window it was that I was looking at.
"No. It's right by the garage."
(In the end, Collin was able to get the cars out, but from my vantage point I really didn’t think we’d be able to.)
About this time is when I saw Collin, standing on the apron with his hand to his ear.
"My husband might be calling in too."
"Yes, I think he is calling right now. Okay, I have called the department. There is a deputy on the way."
I believe this was the end of our conversation. I don't think I told her that we thought it was the Christmas tree. But to be completely honest, I don't know for sure.
After hanging up I remember looking at the clock and seeing it was 1:22 am. My brother was still at work and I was wishing I could somehow get a hold of him. The problem was, in this day and age with cell phones, I didn’t know his number and I didn’t have one of our phones with his contact information saved.
"He should hear it come over the scanner." John told me.
We turned back to the window, the boys were both standing below me with their hands perched on the sill, neither one of them making a sound. I was replaying to John what had happened; explaining that we thought it was the Christmas tree, but as we were studying the house I realized it wasn't.
"It can't be. The tree is way over in that corner." I said, pointing to the west most side of our house. "That window, that's the basement."
As we stood there analyzing the windows, slowly making sense of what we were looking at, our basement window blew out and bright orange flames were bursting from the house.
When we left the house I picked up the kids and ran to the neighbors. Meanwhile, Collin turned to go back into the house. However, when he got to the front door the smoke was so black and so thick that he didn't go in. He turned instead and ran to the garage, knowing that he should try to move the vehicles. Hoping there might be a spare set of keys in his truck he opened the door and frantically searched around. No luck. He stuck it in neutral and tried pushing it, but it wouldn't budge.
What I didn't realize at the time is that when the smoke alarms went off, in addition to grabbing Hutt, he also picked up his phone. When he couldn't get his truck to move he called 911, which was at practically the same time I was calling.
Hanging up the phone he remembered that our car keys, while typically in our kitchen, an area there was no way to access, were in his fleece pocket, which was lying on our bedroom floor. As soon as he remembered this he ran back to the front door. The smoke was so intense that it practically knocked him down; getting on his belly and army crawling he made his way back to our bedroom.
As the electric box was in the corner of the basement, the fuses had already blown out, which left him navigating in the pitch dark, trying to stay as best he could beneath the smoke. He found his fleece, called for the cat and swung his arms to see if he would hit her, thinking maybe she was in our bedroom, possibly under the bed. If Sophie was there, he couldn’t find her. Turning around he made his way back to the front door. Before standing he felt a random pair of tennis shoes and as he stood up to leave, he kicked those out the door with him. A pair of shoes. So minor, but having just one item of your own to wear the next day would provide just a tiny bit of normalcy.
Exiting the house, he ran back to the garage and first moved his truck, backing it up into the field far enough so it was out of the way. His truck had been parked outside of the garage, so of our two vehicles this one was easy to move.
My car, unfortunately, was inside the garage. The garage sits right next to the basement window which was now bursting with flames. I have no doubt that adrenaline played a major role in getting my car out of the garage.
Assessing the situation he knew there was only one way in. Lowering his shoulder and charging only inches from shooting flames, he bull rushed the locked entry door. The frame split down the middle, enough for him to break into our smoke filled garage. Since there was no electricity, and no way to easily open the door, he had to use the release cord. Except there was one problem, a couple of years ago we removed the release cord because it was red and it was attracting hummingbirds that were coming into our garage, getting stuck, and dying. There was no release cord. Holding his breath he raised his arm and used the car key, aimlessly poking around for the tiny little track release. Someone was definitely watching out for us that night that is for sure, because by a stroke of luck he hit the release button and was able to open the door, getting the car out of the garage and avoiding an even bigger disaster if the fire were to reach the gas tank.
I hadn't planned on drawing this out into a Part III, but there are so many details I don't want to omit and the process of putting this together and collaborating with Collin so we document as best as we both remember is somewhat exhausting. So, to be continued….