It’s been exactly two weeks, and I’m finally finding the time to sit down and tell the beginning of this story. As a family, we’ve decided that sharing our story will serve a few different purposes: it’s an easy way for us to share our journey in rebuilding our home, but it’s also a way for us to show our gratitude to those who have helped us along the way. We hope we can help others too by offering tips and advice about things we’re learning from the fire to the new construction.
So, follow us home again to Silver Creek. We hope we all grow, laugh and learn along the way.
SO … here’s the long story short. It started as a typical Memorial Day weekend. Kirk, Hanna, Kirsten, Tomas and I were all home — Annika was at a friend’s cabin. Hanna’s birthday often falls on the holiday weekend – and it did this year – so we spent the day celebrating with her, including taking her out for birthday dinner in Minneapolis. We came home from dinner around 7:30 p.m.
Kirsten had gone to bed after a marathon viewing of American Ninja Warrior. Kirk, Hanna and Tomas were watching a movie in the master bedroom, and I had retreated to Tomas’ bed for some sleep.
Chloe and Boomer started frantically barking just after 11 p.m.; it was the same time that Kirsten saw the fire out her window.
Just after 11 p.m., two things happened simultaneously: the dogs started wildly barking and I jumped out of bed, suspecting a prowler. Kirsten came running out of her room at the same moment with a look of terror I’d never seen before. She screamed that she could see flames out her window, coming out of the garage service door.
We yelled for everyone to get out and we all quickly ran out of the house into the backyard; the two dogs ran with us. We were so panicked, we didn’t even grab our phones.
We made it the 50 yards from the house to the barn and we turned around and looked. The garage was engulfed in flames and all sorts of popping, cracking and other eerie sounds were coming out of the garage. We just stood there for what seemed like an eternity, not knowing what to do. We started yelling, hoping a neighbor could hear us, but we got no response. Kirk and Hanna decided to run to the road to see if they could flag down a car. I sat with the other kids and the dogs, trying to keep them all calm.
Standing in the road in his dark grey, Exofficio “Give and Go” boxer briefs, Kirk wasn’t really doing us any favors. Car after car sped by Kirk as he tried to get people to stop. Frustrated, Hanna did a 400 yard dash up the neighbor’s driveway. Once she got to their house, she discovered they weren’t home. She grabbed the front door handle and realized it wasn’t locked so she ran in and called 911.
About two hours after we discovered the fire, the home was beginning to collapse.
According to the fire department’s report, this call was made at 11:14 p.m. (For the record, a second call came in at the same time as a welfare check for a half-naked man in the middle of Norell Avenue.) By 11:20 the first fire truck and the sheriff were on the scene. The fire captain did a quick assessment and found the garage engulfed in flames and quickly spreading.
For 10 minutes, we watched helplessly, while the fire in our home grew exponentially with every gasp of oxygen it took. The flames quickly grew higher and higher, and moved farther and farther through the house while we waited for more help to arrive.
By 11:30, the first tanker trucks arrived and grew to include 14 tanker trucks from 10 different fire departments. At any one time, there were 20 firefighters working the fire. By dawn, they will have used more than 110,000 gallons of water to fight the fire.
My brother and my parents arrived and we huddled together, watching what turned out to be the Memorial Day bonfire of our nightmares. We found lawn chairs in the barn and set up camp in the front yard until dawn.
The nightmare continued, when at about 3 a.m., they called in a large excavator to help control the blaze. For those of you who have seen our house, you know it has a non-traditional layout. Alright, it was down-right crazy, with all the different levels, and nooks and crannies, which made the perfect house for hide-and-seek, but not for firefighters trying to find a way to stop this fire.
The excavator tearing down the house to help control the fire.
Because there were 14 tanker trucks blocking our driveway, the excavator driver had to get creative. Right out of a horror movie, the machine came marching through the woods, picking up trees and tossing them aside to make his path.
Backlit by the many firetrucks, this giant shadow of a machine heaved its way into the smoke cloud that had settled into the yard. It began attacking the house with an army of firefighters supporting it. Our home was torn down, section by section, piece by piece.
What was left of the garage the next morning.
By 5 a.m., it was over. As quickly as the sun rose, the 20+ emergency vehicles disappeared. We were left alone with the smoldering remains of our home.
With nothing but some borrowed clothes on our backs, we walked away from our home. We went to reflect, refresh and refuel at my brother’s home. The story picks up again a few hours later as we begin the search for our two cats, Bandit and Elliot.