The Morning I Smelled Fire
It was a typical Tuesday. Freshly brewed coffee in hand, before I sat down to the computer in my home office to begin work I opened the window to let in the sunshine and fresh air.
In wafted a strong stench of smoke. Something very close – closer than I’d ever smelled – was on fire. I ran outside and through the yards of Radcliffe Estates in Port Richey and quickly it was obvious that a house one street away from my home was on fire. Struck with the thought of another family going through the devastation of a house fire, I joined forces with neighbors immediately and we did what we could to help.
When your family business is disaster cleanup, a house fire is a regular event. Luckily we have been spared that experience in our own home, but we have sat and shed tears with families as they faced disaster following fires, and cried together joyfully months later after we have worked as a team to rebuild a home.
Unfortunately that day, a family lost two dogs and many of their possessions. No human life was injured. Our neighborhood banded together to support the family in need with generosity of all kinds – shelter and meals, immediate needs that cropped up, long term housing, and friendship.
Before that day, I’d mostly thought of the physical loss a family experiences after a fire, and the emotional tolls of losing your home and possessions, and sometimes even an animal you love or other extremely difficult losses. But after watching first-hand the moments that lead up to a client calling a company like SERVPRO of West Pasco, I became more acutely aware of the emotional stressors that occur from the moment the fire ignites and that last for many years or even longer.
The neighbors whose home burned to nearly a total loss due to an electrical malfunction have since become good friends. We have attended their son’s hockey games, hired their teenage daughter to babysit, celebrated milestones together, and relaxed on the back porch. We’ve also learned from them to understand another dimension of being a disaster restoration client, and I’m grateful for that perspective. I’ve been able to be a more empathetic project manager by putting myself in a client’s shoes from the start of a project to the end, and trying to understand the depth of loss and renewal that accompanies a fire restoration project in a home.
Our neighbors’ fire was unpreventable. Many fires like this happen each year, and while we cannot plan, we can prepare. I wish I hadn't smelled fire in my neighborhood that morning, and of course my neighbors feel the same. But because I did, I have a wider understanding of the process and new friends.