My house burned down last week


Im a pretty closed off person when it comes to my feelings so this is a throwaway account but I felt like I just needed to talk to someone. Its kindof muddled but I feel like I have to tell the story to explain why I feel this way? Maybe I'm oversharing. There is a tldr at the bottom because the post is long, I'm very sorry.

So as the title says, my house burnt down. It was a single wide mobile home occupied by myself, my husband, daughter, younger sister and our foster sister, and our four dogs. It was the family home my mother and later myself had grown up in; it was old and had problems. My husband and I were doing renovations on the master bedroom and were going to work on the rest of the house, so we had bought a camper to stay in until we were finished, and later my sisters could use it when we got to working on their room. Other than our room, a tiny sewing room, a small bathroom, the kitchen, and the sister's room, the rest of the house was mostly inaccessable due to being used as a storage for my grandmother and mother's things (long story), but we didn't need much space.

The morning it happened, my daughter was at her dad's, sister was at another friend's house, but the husband and I were at home in our camper and foster sis was asleep in her room in the house. My cousin was over using the property for some hunting. Husband and I were sleeping in late, which was already unusual, but we hadn't slept well the night before. Our dogs had started barking like wild out of the blue and when my husband got up to let them out he didn't see anything unusual. He sat on the bed and noted how it had suddenly gotten really dark outside. Not a minute later cousin comes beating on the door, yelling that the house was on fire. He'd been out early that morning and was heading back when he saw the smoke.

We rush out, I remember screaming that the girls were still in there– we didn't know younger sister was at her friend's until much later. I called 911 and began answering questions but I was panicking hard and wonder if that might've delayed the process any. At this point, where we hadn't even seen smoke maybe 10 minutes before, there were flames billowing out of the back half of the house and the roof Cousin grabbed a brick from our garden and broke through the sister's window and Husband climbed inside. We were all screaming foster sister's name at this point and I had cousin call their phones but nobody was answering. Husband had to climb back out, he says he couldn't see anything/anyone in the smoke and he couldn't make it out into the hallway as it was already on fire. Finally sister answers the phone. She's at her friend's but foster sister isn't with her. Flames are coming out of their bedroom now. My car, and foster sister's car are parked too close to the back of the house and they catch fire and explode. Somewhere in the house, husband and cousin's ammunition begins to cook off. There are little pops and crashes and booms and for a few minutes it sounds like an active warzone. Husband runs to the shed and comes back with an axe. Foster sister must be in the bathroom, he thinks. The bathroom separates the sister's room from ours and is right against the wall there. He starts hacking at it but by the time he manages to make a hole through the shower, more flames are escaping. Finally a sheriff arrives. A damn sheriff. He stands by and watches with us, convinces the husband to get away from the house and gets a head count, starts asking question after question. House still burning. I'm still on the phone with the operator but I tell her someone is here and hang up. All we could do was watch. You could hear their dogs screaming from somewhere inside; they'd probably been in the living room. I couldn't believe we'd forgotten them. It was horrible. Husband mentions he'd seen foster sister's phone inside, a little square lit up in the smoke, and with the dogs being inside we know now for sure she was still in there. Eventually fire trucks arrive, a ton of them. Too little too late. They did their job and asked about a million more questions. I answered what I could but had to take a break a few minutes in. From 11: 45ish 12:30ish was all the time it took for everything to burn to the ground.

Its a week later and there is still police tape around most of our property. Fire chief still cant tell us what caused it. They let us uncover and bury the dogs but beyond that we weren't allowed to touch anything else. I dont want to anyway, I overheard something about how they couldn't find a bone in the initial recovery but when asked they wouldn't specify which nor would they even tell me where they were looking when asked directly. I never got more about it out of them so I don't know if they every found it. The important information had to be pried out of them; she was asleep when it happened, it was probably an electrical fire, she was probably dead long before the flames got her by carbon dioxide or whatever. Husband learned by observation during the recovery that she hadn't been in the bathroom at all; she'd been in their room he had gone into. He's really torn up about it. The fire dept and sherrif's dept dont communicate what-so-ever and I've had to repeat information for both sides several times. We can't get ahold of foster sister's dental records (her case had been in limbo forever and she was still technically a ward of the state at 19. Both her parents are in prison. Her grandmother was hard to track down but she didn't have any) so they haven't even officially identified her on paper.

We were given bereavement by our jobs, my husband works security and he didn't even have a choice, his boss recommended him to EAP and they forced him to take time off. We've been cramped in our camper and tensions are high always. Sometimes we all just sit in silence. Sometimes we all cry, sometimes we all fight. Electricity was cut off for obvious reasons; we have a small generator but we only run it at night for heat. So no light no games… No distractions. With all this off time nobody has anything to do. We don't know what to do. My sister is doing the worst of all of us, lashing out or crying. Husband is convinced he could have gotten her out if he had just done this or that and sister has jumped on it. She's searching for someone to blame; foster was her best friend for years before we got to call her our sister. I'm not upset with her for this, I know she's just in shock, but it still hurts when she says these things and while we've tried to have a real discussion, more often than not we end up arguing and fighting about it.

Im trying to be the mediator, as I'm the farthest removed, all I lost was stuff. Foster was cool but came into the family after I'd already moved out, we were close but not that close. I don't feel allowed to be sad so I just don't, not where anyone can see. I've made so many phone calls. I told her grandmother, the only family of hers I can talk to. The fire department suggested I call the insurance companies for all of the things destroyed and I've done that, though the agent that is supposed to come down and appraise everything cant even come until the fire dept finishes their investigation, and they just don't talk to us.

I just feel like we're wading through high water. The smell of smoke is in all our clothes. Every time the wind stirs or it rains or anything, the smell stirs up and its vivid. None of us have been sleeping well. I keep hearing those dogs. They were both trained therapy dogs and damn good animals. My sister could really use one right now, one of them was hers for her depression.

We've closed all the curtains on the front of the camper so we don't have to stare out at the rubble every day, but the constant dark doesn't help any either. I can't find any normalcy to bring them. I've suggested we go to my mother and grandmother's house before but sister doesn't feel comfortable there (long story) and doesn't want to be alone if we go. I haven't seen my daughter this entire time but we feel its best if she stays away from all of this and remains oblivious for while– she's only four years old and we aren't ready to explain it to her, nor do we know how. She loved her auntie and I don't want to tell her.

Tldr: house burned down and we lost our foster sister and my sister's therapy dogs. We're now in a very cramped living situation that was never meant to be more than temporary. We're stuck due to paperwork. Cant go forward to clean up or pick up the pieces. We're all dealing with the loss very poorly and don't know what to do. My family is struggling and I just want to help but don't know how.

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