When I was about ten years old I saw smoke in the air and a fire down the block. I rode my bike to see a small garage which had caught on fire and a few fire fighters quelling the flames. It was nothing significant for me, just a fire in the garage, but that memory has stuck with me all of my life.
This Monday’s experience was a little different. I had packed up my things and left work for the day. My only plans were to pick up the house a bit, watch some TV and have a little meal to hold me over until the AgriBusiness Banquet at the American Legion. It wasn’t until I looked out my window and saw a cloud of black smoke that I knew anything was happening. Even then, I had no idea of the scale of the fire.
I quickly ran downstairs, hopped in my car and followed the smoke and sirens. Parking close enough to know I was on the right block, but far enough away that I wouldn’t be blocking any emergency vehicles, I pulled my camera out of my bag and began recording what was happening around me.
At this time there were people gathering around the house and the St. James Fire Department was working independently to knock down the flames. All I could think about was how quickly the fire had spread and grown. It was now pouring out the front entryway windows and climbing up the sides of the home. Dark smoked filled the air and made getting a photo difficult.
I walked around the building and asked some people if they knew whether or not everyone got out of the building ok. Some didn’t know, others said they had. I prayed they made it safely.
My girlfriend is always bugging me about making sure the smoke alarms are working properly, but I honestly hadn’t given it much thought until Monday. Watching how quickly a fire can move and consume a home was an eye-opening experience. It was only a matter of minutes before the fire had spread and escape would have been nearly impossible. Early detection is obviously key in making it safely out of a house fire.
I also saw firsthand how important the surrounding fire departments are to the St. James community. Their help at the home turned the raging fire into a big cloud of light-grey smoke. A large number of volunteers – so large I lost count – came to help their neighbors, which is a special thing to witness in a town of 4,600.
I hope the Carreon family finds blessing and comfort in the supporting embrace of friends and family in this difficult time. But, I also have confidence in the community of St. James, and our ability to rally around a family. If the time comes where the Carreon family needs help, in any way, it’s clear that this community will be right behind them with a helping hand.