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Fire in the Redwoods

02 May 2005

My uncle's house, post fire

My uncle lives in the redwood forests of Fortuna. Last week, after doing some painting in his kitchen, he took a little nap in front of the TV. Later that evening, he woke suddenly, and realized the kitchen was ablaze. He ran from his cabin in the wood, getting some second-degree burns on his way out, and watched it burn down. The only guess is that the gas hose may have come loose when moving the stove.

We drove up there this weekend and camped out in his driveway. We could see that the firefighters had stopped the blaze before it reached completely to the back of the house, but most everything is ruined. He was able to salvage a few clothes, and his tools, but that was really it.

We spent a few hours on Saturday sifting through the ashes – literally, a shovelful at a time – looking for his checkbook, some cash he had in the house, important papers. It was a very emotional time as we pulled scraps out of the rubble. “Hey look, my old harmonica,” he said. “Here’s the Bible my folks gave me in 1961.”

I was impressed even more, though, by how calm he was about the whole thing. When we first arrived, he was looking at magazine of blueprints for new homes, and he said, “Yeah, I was planning on building something now that I’m retired. I guess this is a good kick in the pants.”

We were heading out to do some shopping and asked if we could pick up anything… anything!? He said, “Nah, I’ll get new stuff all at once so it goes together.” And he kept talking about what he would do now that he was retired. Looking forward to things.

It makes me wonder if I would have the same perspective, even though I’m in a different phase of my life. Could I disassociate myself from my stuff and keep perspective in the face of similar events? Frankly, I hope I’m never tested. ​

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