Sunday, November 29, 2009

The House Fire...Mountain Trip #2

Wednesday morning I was getting ready to brave the crowds at the grocery store and then rush home to clean and cook to quickly get ready for Amy to arrive on Thanksgiving day. Instead, I received a frantic phone call from my Mom. You could hear sirens in the background and her voice was breaking up from crying. She said you won't believe what is happening here. I thought the worst. The cabin above theirs, year round home to a couple they've known for years (there are only a few year round homeowners on the mountain) was on fire, that it exploded and and was engulfed in flames which were spreading. Dad had run up the mountain to help - to see if they could be saved and the fire stopped.

My immediate thought was Dad would be caught in the spreading fire or overcome and die up there. I didn't know what to do - I felt so helpless being 4 hours away, on one hand I was glad Gordon and I were here, out of harms way, on the other, I couldn't stand not knowing what was happening. I told Mom to immediately call me back as soon as she knew Dad was ok. I couldn't take waiting, it was not long before I was calling her back - this time Dad answered. I can't tell you the relief I felt hearing his voice, although he sounded terrible. I asked him if he remembered that smell at the cabin below, he did, I said he needed to call the gas company, what if A & D's place (neighbors above) had a leak of gas that caused the explosion - someone needed to get the gas company out ASAP. He said he'd call right away and hung up.

Minutes ticked by and I didn't hear anything and was going crazy with worry. I finally called mom or she called me - I can't remember which - and she told me Dad was having chest pains and the EMT's at the fire site were coming down to help. I started to get ready to make the trip back to the mountains instead of the grocery store.

The next call Mom said they were taking him to the hospital. That's when it was definitely decided - Gordon and I were heading back. I was told that A & D survived, initially I was told they were not inside but then later found out they were inside but made it out in time. Anyway, the EMT's had to have Dad walk down the stairs and to a logging truck which was in their driveway (the single lane gravel mountain road was blocked with police, fire, and rescue trucks as well as volunteer fire fighter's and logging trucks) The logging truck took him further down and then he had to get on a gurney and finally loaded into the ambulance which took him as far as the Maggie Valley Rescue & Fire station, where he was moved to yet another vehicle to transport him to Asheville's Mission Hospital.

I was so happy to hear that A & D survived, and so thankful the fire was contained to around that cabin and didn't spread further (we can thank the soaking weekend rains for that - see my pictures of our cloudy walk after the rains below).

After making reservations at a hotel near the hospital - I still didn't know it wasn't a gas explosion on the mountain and wasn't taking chances on it - plus I didn't know what would happen with Dad and thought maybe we could avoid trips back & forth from Maggie to Asheville. Gordon and I got back in the car that was barely unpacked, and headed back to the mountains, praying a lot on the way.

One amazing thing was that my friend Amy was in Waynesville visiting her friends - just 30 minutes from my parents place. I called her and sweet, wonderful friend that she is, she met Gordon and I in Asheville at the hotel so I could go see my Dad at the hospital. Thanks to H1N1 no children were allowed in the hospital unless being treated, plus a cardiac unit was no place for a four year old anyway.

Dad was admitted, the blood tests showed that there was heart damage. On Thanksgiving Day the blood tests showed more damage, he was put on blood thinners until Friday when he would undergo a catheterization. Dad had 2 stents put in blockages back in 2005, doctors were not sure if there were new blockages, if the stents had failed, or what damage was done.

Thankfully on black Friday the best Christmas present was given to us - the doctors said there were no blockages, the stents were fine, and that he simply had a heart attack due to the extreme exertion and stress of the incident. We were told his heart damage should be manageable with medication. Alleluia!

Amy & Buster spent Wednesday evening, Thursday and Friday taking care of Gordon - I can't find words enough to thank her! My Mom said she and Dad were outside Wednesday morning and heard a popping noise. She said it sounded like deer were crashing through the woods - their initial thought. Then as it got louder they thought it might be a landslide - it sounded like big trees were being broken and snapped off - they didn't know where to go just waiting for the slide, it sounds so terrifying. When the fire explosion happened they saw it and realized whose home it was, Dad knew they were home and although Mom, fearful for him, begged him not to go, he headed up the mountain - not by the road, but straight up the ridge to the road above from the back of their place. When he arrived A was standing in her nightgown and D was standing there watching the fire burn. When the first responder arrived he parked his big dooley truck in the road which blocked the water truck from getting to the fire - it was chaos and Dad tried to help by telling them how to get closer before walking back home while having chest pains. Thankfully, although a home and all the contents inside were lost, no one was killed. A miracle. I personally think Dad had a hero-attack, not just a simple heart attack, mom said when she begged him not to go he said he couldn't live with himself if he didn't go and they were hurt, sounds like a hero to me. I'm so glad my hero is still around to help his namesake to grow up into an amazing man just like himself.

Friday afternoon I drove up to the fire site - a 3 story home was reduced to this:
not a thing salvaged
not a beam left standing
only two of the basement walls still standing
with still smoldering ash everywhere...the flames were still going about 5 feet high on Wednesday night...the fire dept kept checking on it through Thursday.
The sunny bright blue skies and gorgeous mountain views are quite a contrast to the devastating ruins. On Wednesday night we saw the news footage - all was shot from down in the valley as no one else could get close, mom has video of the fire from their porch, amazing.

That white tangle of metal was their wrought iron patio set that had been on the deck
Mom & Dad's cabin, in the center, A & D's cabin was at the higher peakI can't believe I didn't get a single picture of Amy - but here's Buster getting a final walk down in the valley before we drove back to Greensboro following each other. The old barn in the valley just below my parents place.

We didn't have a Thanksgiving Day like most people celebrated, but we are more thankful than ever. Now we're back home, Dad is home from the hospital, and hopefully, life can start to go back to "normal" soon.

Visit to the Mountains...Part 1

A spur of the moment trip to my Mom & Dad's place. Plans were to visit them over the weekend before Thanksgiving, come home Tuesday to get ready for my friend Amy to visit for the Thanksgiving weekend...that didn't quite work out but more on that later.

I woke Gordon from a nap. Before he fell asleep he must have decided to build a tower out of whatever he found nearby...Nemo, Tinker Toys, a beach ball and his shoe...what a crazy kid! He was probably so tired from all the manual labor Mom & Dad made us do...hauling logs. Dad stood on the steep side of the mountain with his chain saw and we gathered up the falling logs & put them in the truck & unloaded them at the cabin for firewood. I learned something about locust trees...they have deadly thorns!

Grandma & Grandpa decorated the cabin for Christmas early The leaves are definitely gone up in the mountains and everyone is just waiting for winter to arrive it seems.
Even with no leaves and just browns & grays to decorate the mountains, they are beautiful.
We took a walk after the rain/snow showers were over the day before, it was mostly cloudy and cold but the sun would break through every once in a while.
Ghost Town in the Sky, is becoming a real ghost town...they are having financial problems & may close for good soon.
Peeking into a hole asking me "Mommy what lives in there?"
I told him he'd better be careful poking his walking stick into the hole, you never know when something might grab the stick and pull you in. I take responsibility for any future nightmares!

The view of Mom & Dad's place from the road above their cabin.
The road right above my parents place, there is one home at the very top.

Mom & Dad's place above. This beautiful sitting area with roses outside the cabin is just below theirs.November roses, amazing!
Checking on the cabin...all looked good except an icky smell around the area where the bench & roses were...Dad and I smelled it, but there didn't seem to be anything around to explain it. We'd seen several buzzards circling just over the area the day before so maybe something was dead just below on the mountain side. We initially both thought it might be gas, but Dad checked the level of the gas on the tanks and it was full.
A dogwood tree that looks like it has more fuzzy lichen than bark.

Gordon playing in the leaves.
That giant tree trunk grows right out of the mountainside. I hope it stays put for a long time - it is an enormous tree.
The sun and blue skies coming out at the end of our walk.

We had a great visit, did a lot of shopping...not a lot of buying. Had a great dinner at La Paz in Asheville and enjoyed seeing the beautiful Christmas lights of Biltmore Village. It was a quick trip and we got back home Tuesday afternoon. I was too tired to start my grocery shopping so put it off until morning...the Wednesday before Thanksgiving...I never made it to the stores though, instead we made our next trip to the mountains, this time, not for fun. More on that soon.