Family Tragedy Becomes a Fun Family Tradition

My father retired from the Army in 1987, so my family moved from Germany to Alabama.  We bought a house in East Limestone and after living there only one week the house caught on fire.  It also happened to be on Halloween.

The roof collapsed and the house sustained major water damage in several areas.  We spent the next three months in a rental home, while our house was being rebuilt.

Every Halloween, we would talk about the fire of ’87.  We would reminisce about the amount of damage done by the fire, about how lucky we were that nobody was hurt, and about how so many people helped us during our time of need.

Over the years, the emotional sting diminished and we started to do fun things to commemorate the day.  Sometimes, we go out to eat at Firehouse Subs or Smokey’s BBQ.  Sometimes, we roast marshmallows.

That’s how a family tragedy became a fun family tradition.

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Fire of ’87 – Thirty Year Anniversary

In 1987, on Halloween Day, our house caught on fire.  I was 14 when this happened.  It’s one of those events that you remember for the rest of your life.

Every year I do something to commemorate the Fire of ’87.  In the past, I wrote about what caused the fire, the destruction caused by the fire, and my feelings at the time of the fire.  However, this year I want to write about something different.  I want to write about the volunteer fire department that did the best they could to save as much of the house as possible.

At the time, we lived in East Limestone, Alabama.  East Limestone is an unincorporated community, which means there is no city fire department.

Community fire department, like the one in East Limestone, is staffed by volunteers.  The fire department also relies on donations or fund raisers to purchase all needed equipment and to train the volunteers.

The fire fighters that came to our house that day, had jobs and family responsibilities.   They had busy schedules just like everyone else.  However, they willing gave of their time and risked their lives to help us.

This year I want to say thank you to all the volunteer fire fighters that work diligently to save lives and protect their communities.

The Fire of 1987

In 1987, on Halloween, our house was destroyed by a fire.

I was 14 years old at the time.  My brother and I spent the day, just like every other day.  We goofed around and played games.  We talked about what we were going to do that night.  It was Halloween, so we had plans for some fun activities.

We just moved into the house a week prior and nobody knew about the electrical problems in the attic.  That afternoon, two hot wires touched and set off a spark.  That spark turned into a fire.  Since there were no smoke detectors in the attic, the fire went unnoticed by me and my family.

The neighbor saw smoke and flames coming from the roof, so he ran over to our house and was frantically banging on the door.  He was yelling for us to get out of the house, because it was on fire.

All of us ran out as quickly as possible.  The fire department was called and they responded in a matter of minutes.  My brother and I sat in the front yard and watched as the firefighters battled the blaze.

I remember feeling like it was a dream.  I wasn’t upset about the situation at that time, so I guess I was just in a state of shock.

The fire destroyed most of the house.  The roof over the living room and dining room area had caved in and there was a good bit of water damage to areas that were still standing.

We stayed with relatives for a few days and then moved into a rental house.  Luckily, my parents had purchased homeowners insurance, so the house was rebuilt and a couple months later we were able to move back into our home.

I always think about that fire on Halloween.  I think about how lucky we were, since nobody was hurt.  I think about how it felt to watch our home being destroyed by a fire and not being able to do anything about it.  I think about the firefighters that battled the blaze.   I think about the people that helped us salvage some of our belongings, allowed us to use their garage to store those items, gave us a place to sleep until we could move into the retail home, and even cooked a meal for us to eat that night.

A lot of people helped us during that time.  Some of them were friends and family, but some of those people were strangers.  I appreciate what everyone did for us.  It meant a lot to me and my family.

Fire of ’87

In 1987, on Halloween night, our house caught on fire.

The fire started in the attic, because two hot wires touched and set off a spark.  We didn’t know about it, until the neighbor started banging on our door and yelling about flames coming from the roof.  We all ran out of the house, about ten minutes later the ceilings caved into the living room and dining room.

The local volunteer fire department arrived to battle the blaze.  While they were working, my brother and I sat in the front yard and watched.  I don’t remember much of what I was thinking or feeling at that time.  I was a bit numb.  I guess you can say I was in a state of shock.

I was 14 when this happened.  Every Halloween night, I still think back on the events of that day.

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