Not dead yet.

That fire? That one in my attic? It was Kind of a Big Deal.

Actually, it was a really big deal.

It wasn’t big in that I lost everything I own and my little dog too way, but as I like to remind people who say, “oh, my headaches are nothing like yours,” all pain is painful.

The electrician came not very long after I called him, and it turned out that it was, in fact, an electrical fire, because the whole house was running off one wire up in the joists and that wire just got overloaded and BAM! that was it.

It appears to have originated where a fire alarm was hard-wired into the house and spread from there. It didn’t spread any further than it did because the insulation was so old that it was no longer light and fluffy like it should be, but compacted down to about an inch or so thick, so it never fully caught – it just smoldered and stunk up the joint.

So the house had to be rewired properly.

And the insulation had to all come out, and will be replaced with TAP insulation, which is flame retardant, and is seeded with stuff that repels bugs and other creatures you don’t want in the house.

And then the insurance adjustor came and said I was going to have to call Service Master or somebody to come wash and seal the walls and joists, or the smell would linger forever, so I did.

And Service Master sent two men who brought some air scrubber machines that both blow and suck in the attic and eave space to clean the air, and then a contractor came and he said, “Welp. The part of the ceiling that’s charred is going to have to come out,” and I was thrown for a loop, because on your average Thursday, you don’t expect some man you’ve never met before to tell you that your beautiful blue living room is fixing to be torn apart.

And then Friday, I came home from work and there was a strange truck in the driveway and two men in my house and I said, “Well, hello,” and they pointed at the ceiling and there was a 16″ strip cut out of my ceiling from my front door all the way to the back of the house, through the water heater closet and my two clothes closets, and the contents of my closets were on the beds and all over the floors, just like somebody had a search warrant and tore the place to pieces, only neatly.

I knew, of course, that eventually they were going to do something like that, only I didn’t know it would happen so soon, and I was knocked back with shock. I didn’t know what else to do, so I put on some tennis clothes and left them there with it.

They patched up the long black hole with heavy black plastic that they’ve nailed to the ceiling with strips of cardboard, because apparently the upstairs has to be sealed off tightly for the air scrubbers to work.

The air scrubbers make the house sound like its engine is always running. It’s like being in a submarine, sort of. I’m not one to turn the television up loud, but I’ve had to turn it to the ungodly volume of 52 or so to hear it. It’s craziness.

I haven’t touched the plastic that seals off the door to the upstairs (where the laundry studio is) because I haven’t the heart, so I haven’t done laundry. I’m just picking clothes out of the piles that are now all on the guest bed, and picking shoes that are in the heap on my bedroom floor.

I did go through the things they took out of the bedroom closet and make a pile for the Goodwill, and I went through some old papers, too. I found a paystub from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1994 in which I netted $224.34, which I thought, at the time, was a ton of money. And I paid for my own insurance.

I also found a series of letters that my friend Andy and I had faxed back and forth to each, back before email, because that was how we communicated, by letter, but not really. And I found a pen and ink drawing that my friend Rob did for me before he moved to Florida with Trisha, the love of his life and my good and great friend.

Mostly I just wander around and think, “Oh, my God. This could have been so much worse.” I wasn’t home when it happened, or I don’t think I was. There’s no telling how long that fire smoldered without me knowing it. Thank God nothing happened to my dog.

My friends have been so gracious and kind. Jason came over and looked at it for me. Tara and Landon gave me a referral for an excellent electrician. Lynn didn’t freak all the way out when I called and said, “I’m fixing to cry.” Pete came over and translated what was going on. I’ve talked to my daddy several times a day for advice and he’s told me what to do and when. I told my brother about the ceiling and he simply offered to do whatever’s necessary to make it all look right. Nobody has looked at me funny when I’ve shown up wearing odd combinations of clothing.

The insurance is covering all but my $500 deductible, which is great, because I think I’m at about $14,000 now in damages, and counting. All I lost was some bad wiring and some old insulation.

When it’s all over, you can come over and plug something in. It’ll be safe.

About S.

Reader, writer, talker, knitter, picture taker, tennis player, music lover, Southerner.
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16 Responses to Not dead yet.

  1. Oh Susan. This is all just too much for any one person and I’m awfully glad you’ve got a lot of people. I’m more glad about that one inch, non-fluffy insulation. It could have been so much worse but it’s still just awful.

    • S. says:

      It could have been absolutely devastating, and yet it was not. It’s a giant pain in the ass, for sure, but it’s a mere blip on the radar. Even right now, there are people there working on it without me even having to be there to tell them what to do or to figure out what has to be done to tell them.

      I wonder how many times in a lifetime one person can be protected from calamity? Because I sure have slipped past the chaos more than a time or two.

  2. Steph says:

    Holy moly rocky. I’m so glad that it’s all being covered by insurance.

  3. jaysaint says:

    Good grief. There’s a guest room in Knoxville with your name on it if you need a little restorative getaway.

  4. Capiz Calloway says:

    aw, honey. I’m glad it wasn’t more serious than all that, but still. What an ordeal.

  5. Shani Jean says:

    Do you need anything?

    Girl, you are so blessed, or lucky, or something.

    • S. says:

      No, I’m really okay, but thank you for asking. The plastic that sealed off the upstairs is gone, so I can get up there now and do a load of laundry, and that’s a huge relief.

      I am blessed beyond all measure, in all ways.

  6. Heather says:

    Holy guacamole. It could have been so awful, yet it wasn’t.
    You had the big guy looking your way.

  7. Professor Liddle-Oldman says:

    It’s amazing how much fuss and bother even a little fire engenders. This is how we lost our last apartment — there was a little electrical fire on the third flor, in the ceiling of the built-out attic. it took the fire department about five minutes and as little water as they could manage to put it out. And no one lived in that house from that night on for fourteen months. The top two floors ended up being entirely redone, stripped to stud and rewalled.

    My point is, you have my sympathy and understanding. 🙂

    • S. says:

      Thanks, Leslie. It has been just the weirdest. You never expect something that seems so minor to be such a big deal. I appreciate your dropping in and patting my hand – I’ve been feeling a bit odd.

      • Professor Liddle-Oldman says:


        It’s like a slightly smoky fraternity, innit. And that thought “We could have all died of smoke inhilation and been burned up” doesn’t really help, either. 😦

        That being said, I’ve subscribed to this on the Electric Computing Engine, long time since. Just wanted to be supportive.

  8. Miep says:

    Very, very glad you and TT are ok. Not pleased with your having to get through this, but super Pleased that you are, and that you have good people to get you through.

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