The last time I posted was December last year and so much has happened. So much. This is more of a life update than a sewing related post, but I’ll make sure to include a bit of sewing content too. I think most people who follow me on social media will know that we had a house fire on the 2nd of February this year. It wasn’t particularly bad, it was contained to the garage and the angel firies kept it that way – by some miracle it never spread into the house, although it was very close. Our house is split level, with the garage and my sewing room next to each other on that ground level, downstairs has the kitchen and lounge which were basically untouched and upstairs is bedrooms and bathrooms which needs to be gutted down to frame (including taking off the roof). Why? Smoke. I never realised the sheer amount of damage smoke can do, it’s heartbreaking. Especially smoke that comes from a garage fire. Everything that burnt was plastic or rubber or something else toxic, so the smoke is also toxic – it’s oily and sticky and corrosive, meaning that it starts to eat away at things the second it hits. Some things were gone instantly, some things we’re still losing almost five months down the track – my big 27″ iMac just died because the smoke corroded it slowly over that time.
Yes, we’re insured. Everything will be covered and I can’t even imagine going through this without that. The process is still incredibly slow. No work has started on the house yet beyond the first little flurry of cleaning within the first two weeks. All our clothes and textiles were sent away for dry cleaning. Our house sits charred and sad on our street, while we rent a cute little place about 10 minutes away.
Of course, having the sewing room next to the garage means it was hit pretty hard. It will be demolished along with the garage. We’re incredibly lucky to have amazing neighbours who acted so fast. They saved our house. I left for work at about 8am with the kids, shut the garage and that’s when hell broke loose. The fire investigators best guess is that a small metal object (likely a wiper blade) fell from a shelf in the garage and onto an old, dead car battery that was bound for the tip later in the week. It hit both terminals perfectly and caused a spark. That’s all it took. At 8:15am one neighbour saw the smoke rolling down the street and jumped into action, bashing on all our doors and yelling – which in turn alerted our other neighbours. Triple 0 had so many calls that they sent all available units from the Sunshine Coast, we had trucks come up from an hour away. Both sets of neighbours called my husband and I, it’s a call that I will never forget. My husband told them that our dog Sid was in the house, probably asleep in my sewing room. And he was. Fast asleep in the blistering, smoke filled room. Our wonderful neighbour risked his life to break in and carried him out to safety. Typing that still makes me cry. The firies arrived just after 8:20am and the fire was out by 8:30am, just before I made it home.
I’d never seen anything like that in our quiet suburban street before, there were multiple fire trucks, police cars and ambulances. People everywhere. A very kind work mate didn’t want me to drive, so had driven me home. I bolted from the car and buckled over in the street. I was shocked. Even the whole drive home, I was telling myself that it was impossible, there is nothing that could have caught fire in our house, the neighbours must have been mistaken. I talked to the police, I talked to the firies, a very kind paramedic got me out of the sun and gave me tissues and water. Everyone was talking to me but I couldn’t really absorb what they were saying. My husband arrived after what felt like forever, but in reality was only about ten minutes. There’s that gross old cliche about other halves, but god I needed him there and felt it down to my core. We were better together. We talked to the police and firies together, the media arrived and we hid behind the fire truck from them together. Slowly but surely people disappeared until it was just us, in the rain together, looking at our burnt house. We weren’t sure if we were allowed to go in, but there was no one there to stop us so we did it anyway.
It was a strange time. Almost like we’d been abandoned. The firies had told us there was ‘a bit of smoke damage’ in the house, but we were certainly not prepared for what we saw. We both ended up buckled over, sobbing in the hallway. How does that much damage happen in 15 minutes? The rooms furtherest back from the fire showed signs of heat damage, bolts in the walls and the ceilings had burned black marks into the plaster. The shadows of roof beams were printed onto the ceiling in black. The fire hadn’t even come close to these rooms but the smoke and heat had left their permanent marks.
We let ourselves mourn for a little while but then it was calls from the insurance company and people started arriving again. Builders came to board up the windows and garage and secure the house. It felt so much better when people were around, when work was getting done. Action is good, work is progress. I think that’s why I’ve felt so lost for the past couple of months. The waiting is killing us. I’ll feel so much better when actual work can start. But for now, there’s a lot of paperwork and scopes of work and approvals and back and forth about everything.
I have a little shed at our rental that is a perfect sewing room really, but I haven’t used it. It feels too far from the heart of the house and a bit lonely, so I lug my machines to the dinner table and make a mess in the centre of our space. I have no where to cut anymore, so the floor it is – so I haven’t been able to sew for the shop at all. I recently picked up some work sewing for Nerida Hansen, which has been really nice. It allows me to have that creative outlet and get paid at the same time, which is wonderful. I work at school three days a week and couldn’t have got through this without that gang of amazing people (same can be said for Brian’s workmates). We have leaned on our friends and family a lot and they have been there for us. We are lucky. It doesn’t look like it, but we are – we weren’t home when it happened, we have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, we are insured and things will be replaced. Lucky.