A coworker recently experienced a house fire. Everyone escaped without injury.
My friend and I joined the group of volunteers to help with the Rescue-Retrieval Mission. We helped salvage the few belongings that could be saved— clothes, kitchenware and a few mementos.
After the main cleanup was complete, I got permission to photograph the house… with my firefighter miniatures. (I absolutely made sure my friend wouldn’t be offended or find it horribly tacky for me to do.). She smiled and said go for it— something good will come of it. I made sure it was ok with her family too. I confessed to them I’m a lunatic. (But I think they already know that).
I went back in the house and spent quiet time in each room. I imagined the memories that were made. I looked at the possessions that were destroyed— whether burned, melted or ruined by smoke and water damage. Piles of rubble and ashes. Flies. The smell was fascinating. A mix of chemicals and smoke. An eerie stillness. Areas of the carpet and padding made sloshing sounds as I stepped.
You look up to where the ceiling should be— and you see a blue sky.
Nothing can prepare you for the experience.
It’s horrible. It’s sadness. There was order in the house. But not anymore. Ruins. Nothing but ruins.
And here I am, an outsider looking in. But unlike other destroyed or abandoned buildings I’ve photographed over the years— I’m not a complete outsider. I recognize the clothes in the closet. I recognize some of the trinkets and decor. I know the woman who has worked so hard to build her life—who called this place home.
It seemed to pain me more than my coworker to abandon her possessions. But she had to let go. Even though some rooms weren’t burned, smoke damage is insidious.
Besides, things can be replaced.
New memories can be made in a new home while keeping the old memories.
So this absurd little post is a humble tribute to the life that was built in that home.
The photos will take you as close to the experience as possible. I hope they capture as many of the adjectives and emotions that one would use to describe a house fire.
Coasters in the now destroyed living room.
The photo below shows the remains of a television.
Little memento found on the television stand.
I think the photo below is a cell phone case.
Circuit breaker panel.
Items in one of the daughter’s bedrooms that weren’t directly in the fire but damaged by smoke.
The thermostat runs on batteries.
Drywall in the bedroom.
The photo below shows a miniature standing on the remains of a shoe.
Another view of the shoe.
Cosmetics in a plastic basket.
Family treasures were saved.
Baby photos before the age of Instagram, Facebook, etc. I took this shot from the broken bedroom window.
This decorative apple was in the living room and seemed so brightly, cheerily out of place against the ashes.
When I returned home I was physically and emotionally drained—just from one day at the scene of the fire damage.
Imagine what my friend and her family are going through.
When you lie in your bed and look up at the ceiling— and don’t see sky— life is good.
If you’d like to help there are several options.
- There’s a GoFundMe account set up.
- If you’re a local in the Dallas/Ft Worth area), I can meet you at a Starbucks. I’ll collect gift cards (Walmart), detergent (lots of washing at laundromats in Dianna’s future) or even a plastic container (she needs to store the newly washed clothes). Shoes that didn’t get burned or melted were damaged by smoke. A Payless or a Famous Footwear gift card would likely be appreciated.
I will personally deliver the items to my coworker.