I was forwarded the letter below (in red) from my wife. Her sisters’ life-long friend sent it to her.
Mike had a fire in his home and lost everything. Literally, everything. This is not about the fire department that responded. This is an extremely rural, mountainous region and I am sure they did everything possible.
The reason for this is simply to remind us all of what I am sure most of us take for granted. “Someone had a fire in their home”! OMG! I have gone to thousands of fires. Most of you have as well been to your share. Another day, another fire, more hose to clean, SCBA bottles to fill and apparatus to clean up. We have as I have said, been there! But for the most part, this probably the first and last fire they will ever experience.
But never forget the needs of the victims. This is directed especially to company and chief officers. Spend time with the victims. I don’t mean invite them over to dinner but talk to them.
One of my most respected mentors, Chief Brunacini taught the four priorities of the Incident Commander as 1) Firefighter Safety, 2) Civilian Safety, 3) Stop the problem (fire) and 4) Conserve property.
Again, this is not about the actual fire mike had or the department that responded. It’s about attitude, doing what’s right and the best you can.
Think about what we can do to conserve property. As much property as possible. What may seem worn, old, dirty, damaged and otherwise junk to you may be all someone has. Put yourself in Mikes shoes. Do the very best you can at everything, Attacking, Searching, Venting and salvage.
Dear friends and family,
Two nights ago my cabin in Vermont burned to the ground. A flash fire from a gasoline generator started the fire. Within 60 seconds the entire kitchen and living room was engulfed in flames and black smoke. I barely had time to get myself and my two dogs, Sonny and Gabe out of the cabin before the explosions started. I was left standing outside in only a pair of pajamas and rubber boots. It was minus 7 degrees and the four wheeler I use to get up and down the mountain would not start for 10 minutes. I had to choose between a 20 minute walk with hardly in any clothes on in sub zero temperatures or risk starting the four wheeler which was ten feet in front of the burning cabin. I risked starting the four wheeler and I was eventually successful. My neighbor called the fire department but the cabin was completely engulfed long before they arrived.
The cabin and contents are a total loss. Sadly, I brought every picture I owned with me on this trip because I was going to organize a photo album. All my childhood photos and all my photos of my Peace Corps experience in Central Africa are gone. I believe I still have most of the photos of Susanne and I from Paris and Barbados but all my cards and letters from her, including my wedding band are gone. Many other very personal items were lost in addition to my address books, my camera, my wallet, my work materials, my computer, all of my work supplies and all of the work I was completing on four landscape designs. In other words I was left standing with only the clothes on my back.
I am truly greatful I and my dogs are alive. I don't really know how I was able to keep from being severely burned or killed. The fire was that fast and that intense. I admit that I am a bit traumatized by it. I did get a bit of frostbite on three fingers on my left hand and my hair was a bit singed on the right side of my head but I am fine other than that. My neighbors, Matt and Meagan graciously took me in and I and the dogs are staying with them while I work with the insurance company. In addition to being alive, that is the other good news. The house was covered by insurance so I will at least be compensated financially.
I have no idea what I will do when I leave here, whether I will rebuild or move on. Right now I am spending time in deep reflection about my life, Susanne's life and all of you. Beyond all doubt I know that there is only love, the material things about us are just reminders of what is truly real. It is difficult to contact me while I am in Vermont. I'll be leaving here in a day or two. I'll let you know when I return. I am so humbly grateful for each and every one of you.
Lots of love,