Taylor and Laura’s beautiful home burned “up” on Wednesday. I’m saying “up” because that is what we watched–flames reaching up and spreading across the roof. The house is just a shell, but it didn’t burn “down” except for the port cochere and the screened in porch, which are completely gone. And the roof. The shell looks boxy without the peak of the roof.
John answered his phone around 10:15 Wednesday morning and immediately said “No. No!” It was Laura calling to say that the house was on fire–could he go quickly to see what was going on. She had taken the kids to a friend’s house for a morning homeschool that they started doing cooperatively on Wednesday mornings. (There were negotiations whether they would meet at the Loerop’s or Birkey’s. Fortunately, they decided to meet at the Loerop’s.) Taylor was at work and Laura left with the kids around 8:30. Before she left, she turned down the woodburning stove. Sometime after that the wall behind the chimney–brick covered with old wood on the exterior of the house and into the screened in porch–presumably* caught fire. It would have burned for a while before Charlie (in the carriage house on the other side) or the neighbors (across the street or across two empty lots and wooded land) noticed. 911 calls were made and both Laura and Taylor were contacted. When the fire department arrived they had to spend time making sure no one was at home. When John arrived he was able to confirm that they were away. They also had problems getting water the fire. Apparently the oldest hydrant in Oswego is the one across from their house and it was either frozen or broken. It took more time to bring in extra fire trucks and hoses from hydrants a block or two away.
And so, the fire raged, incinerating the porch and port cochere, then through the living room, dining room, Laura and Taylor’s bedroom and the “dressing room” where all the family clothes were kept. It reached the roof, broke through and then swept across the whole thing.
Laura and Taylor arrived, met by different neighbors who walked with them as they first surveyed the damage–and watched the fire continue to progress. One of the neighbors is a fireman who was able to assess and inform Taylor as they walked to the house. The fire chief was there to inform and assist as well. Later, Quinn (the fireman) and his wife opened up their house, two short blocks away for everyone to gather, to talk, to eat, etc. He and his wife even gave Laura and Taylor a key to his house and said, “Come in any time.” Another neighbor/friend left work and came home to be with Laura and later friends from church gathered as well. Taylor’s dad even drove down from Madison, Wisconsin and his mom dropped work and came too. Later in the day, after the fire was out, the homeschool families brought the kids over–with their friends–to see the aftermath. The larger neighborhood also came and watched as a favorite Oswego home burned up, expressing their concern and sadness at the loss of a beautiful landmark, though grateful that no one was hurt.
The carriage house did not sustain any damage at all, but it is heated by gas that comes through the main house so the gas was turned off and cannot be restored until a whole new gas line (from the street) is installed, which won’t be happening any time soon. They will have to drain the pipes and the tenants will have to move. One of them just moved in and was still sorting through her stuff. The other has lived there for 8+ years.
Two sweet stories from that day/night: During the day several people handed either Laura and Taylor some money, which they shoved into their pockets. On their way home they stopped at Target to buy some very basic things like underwear, toothbrushes, etc. The bill came to $189.07 and they pulled $190 out of their pockets. God had provided just what they needed.
When Grams brought 3 year old Boden over to my house, I asked him what had happened. He told me that his house burned. I asked what was going to happen and confidently announced that they were going to fix it! I asked him how long it would take to fix it. He thought for a minute and answered, “Five minutes.” (Ten year old Oaks guessed five months.)
Here are some pictures from after the fire. Please continue to pray for all of us, though especially Laura and Taylor and the kids as we process this emotionally and attend to so many details of life moving forward. Taylor and Laura have met with the fire department, the insurance people etc. Today they are meeting the salvage company.
They have been able to go in the house and find a few treasures that survived and a lot of wet paperwork, etc. A wood desk in their bedroom was charred but some of its contents were salvagable. Guitar cases that melted still held guitars that survived. Laura found the stack of quilts from over the years in a closet (she just put them there a few weeks ago) that were damp and sootty, but whole. (Two quilts were on the beds–we can see one of them, though it is pinned to the bed by a piece of wood that came down–and covered with ashes, so we don’t know yet if it survived. It was a special quilt I made for Kellen’s 13th birthday in November. I told him I can make another (but I hope I don’t have to as its construction was tedious. Some of my co-workers at Quilters Quest have already offered to help me if it comes to that.)
At least two pillars (probably more are still standing!)
(If you look closely in the picture below, you can see some of Kellen’s quilt on the bed.)
A smile on Laura’s face!
*Cause of the fire not yet confirmed.