It happened on January 8, 2017 at 1:15 am. My husband and I were asleep when his cell phone rang. I woke up. He did not. I could not get to his phone but I smelled something funny so I got up and went into the family room. I saw the firebox in the fireplace vibrating and tried to turn off the gas. The key would not let me. It kept turning as if it had no off position.
The area surrounding the firebox (where the gas logs burned) was engulfed with flames. I grabbed our dinky fire extinguisher and aimed at the fire. About that time, I saw it was breaking through to the wall behind the fireplace into the dining room. I ran back to the bedroom and yelled for my husband to get up and call the fire department.
We grabbed our laptops, cell phones, and dog and headed for the garage to get the cars down to the street and await the arrival of the fire trucks. Although it was 18 degrees outside, we did not feel it.
As we watched the flames break through the roof of our house, we prayed for the fire trucks to come quickly. It seemed to take forever, but, in reality it was about 15 minutes. Four trucks and an ambulance arrived. We learned later that the ambulance was for the firemen in case one of them was overcome with smoke.
As soon as the wailing sirens turned on our street, the neighbors began emerging from their homes. They saw what was happening and brought us blankets, coats and socks to keep us warm. I was wearing my bathrobe. We watched together as firemen from three different fire stations worked to put out the fire. As the firemen took the hoses into the house and began spraying, it took the better part of an hour to master the raging flames. In this kind of situation, the water does more damage to the home than the fire, I later learned.
Finally, the firemen were satisfied they had extinguished every hot spot and there was no danger of a new eruption. They came and asked us if we would like to go in our home. With the firemen escorting us, we walked through what looked like a war zone. The family room, dining room and kitchen were destroyed. The back bedrooms looked better because the fire had not gotten to that part of the house. The damage there was from smoke and water. We took a few things from the bedroom we thought we might need, thanked the firemen profusely (they are heroes) and left to go over to my sister-in-law's house for the rest of the night.
In the days that followed, we talked to insurance adjustors, cleaners, engineers, and contractors. Whether the house could be repaired or not (if not, we'd have to tear it down and start over) depended on the foundation. If the foundation had remained firm after all the fire and water, we could rebuild. If not, we'd have to start over. A structural engineer came out to inspect. He donned a hazmat suit and crawled back under the house to look at just how firm the foundation remained. I prayed for the workers who built the house and their diligence in making sure the foundation was solid. Isaiah tells us God answers before we ask. (Is. 65:24). I did not want to start over because I loved the house the way it was and wanted to restore it to its pre-fire condition.
The significance of the foundation was not lost on us. The roof could be toast; the interior black as a rainy night; the kitchen unrecognizable. What counted was the foundation. If it was solid, we could rebuild.
Jesus taught us this. He told the story of the man who built his house on sand. When the storm came, it washed away. But for the man who built his house on the solid rock, his house was safe through the storm. We may not see the foundation and we may even forget it is there, but when the storms of life hit us, the foundation makes the difference. We are thankful that our foundation was solid and we can rebuild the house, but we are even more grateful for our firm foundation in God and his Word which has allowed us to move through these difficult days with peace and an attitude of gratitude.