The Fire (Part Two)

This is part two of my account about the fire. Read part one here. I know it's long, and it's not well organized, but it's kinda therapeutic. When we woke up the next morning, we immediately headed to our house to meet our cleaning folk. Our insurance company had arranged for a set of cleaners to survey the scene to see what needed to be done to make it right. The morning light revealed the extent of the damage to our neighbor's units. It would easily take months to repair the damage. We continued to feel blessed that our plight was much better than that of our neighbors.

The smell of smoke still dominated the scene, but it wasn't as strong as it had been the day before. But as we stepped into our place, we could tell that it still smelled. The cleaning people confirmed this, making us feel a little less crazy. Their prognosis: two weeks. They'd have to clean out all of our possessions—absolutely everything within the unit—to a warehouse where they would clean it down. Then they'd work on the inside of the unit in order to ensure that the smell was eliminated. They basically treated it as if everything had been contaminated. We'd pick out the things that needed to be dry cleaned, which would be handled by a separate company. Since the door to Kaelyn's room was open during the fire, we opted to have all of her stuffed animals cleaned. Our clothes were fine, as they were protected by closet doors. But they'd still have to take all of our stuff out.

And we'd be homeless for a little while.

Fortunately, we had pretty full social calendar to keep us busy: I was performing a wedding that evening, so we opted to stay at the hotel that night; we had to go to Lexington to pick up Kaelyn the next day (and to sing the national anthem at a roller derby); and we had a Florida vacation scheduled in that third week we'd be out of our place, so it didn't seem too bad. And most fortunately, my parents have plenty of spare bedrooms in their house on the westside of town, so we were welcomed in with open arms.

We returned to Cincinnati on Sunday morning and packed up some things to take over to my parents. It was then that Kaelyn got her first glimpse of the fire scene. She handled it really well. The thought of spending some time at Grandma's house made things a little better. That Sunday night was the first we spent at my parents place and I was due to head back over to our condo in the morning to talk to one of the insurance agents of the condominium complex.

But one incident from the day before: as we were heading out on Sunday, I saw some shady characters parked in front of our house. This wasn't me being over-cautious; there were no other cars on the street in front of our house, and these guys were gazing up at the burned out condos. As I pulled out on to the road, I slowed down and recorded the license plate of the car. Sure enough, the next day, people had broken into the burned out condominium units. I have no idea whether or not it was the dudes who looked like they were casing the joint (of course, the police have yet to determine it). They theives took whatever electronics they could find still in those units (even though all of them were likely broken). Still, it was adding insult to injury to our neighbors. I was convinced that we needed to upgrade our alarm system. By Friday, I had a new alarm system which now has motion detectors, making our place completely covered.

Later that evening, there was a windstorm which knocked out power throughout greater Cincinnati, including at our condos. The power outage lasted throughout the next day, so I went on-site to check on things. I glanced at our window and saw that someone tried (unsuccessfully) to pry it open with a hammer. I called the police and the same officer responded to the scene. As he was writing things up, I finally thought to check on the other units. I checked the farthest one first and could hear water pouring in the unit. I had the codes to all the lock boxes to every unit so I was able to get in the unit. Water was flowing from the wall. I made my way downstairs to shut the water off and then looked at the leak. This unit was right next door to one of the fully burned-out units and I could see what happened: copper thieves had broken in to the adjoining unit and tried to steal a live pipe. At least the police officer was still on the scene to fill out the crime report.

I'll admit: I was pissed.

Throughout the ordeal, I tried to keep a positive perspective on things. But the stress of the fire, power outages, and the thought of people breaking into our place had finally pushed me to the breaking point. We returned to our westside abode and I couldn't break my bad mood. Even a trip to our neighbor's pool on a hot evening didn't make me feel better. That evening, I got a text that Duke Energy was at our condos to get the power back on. With everyone else gone, I knew I had to go back there. Even though I had been obligated by one thing or another to be at our place every day since the fire, I hopped in my car and headed back for the second time in one day.

I arrived as the sun was setting. There was an orange glow that framed the skyline view I saw daily as I went to and fro. I was instantly reminded why I loved our place and thoroughly enjoyed our life in the city. And even though I could still smell the smoke and felt violated at the thought of people trying to steal our stuff, I finally felt peace. And with no one else around, I felt I needed to do something. So as the linemen worked to get the power back on, I started picking up the trash from the fire that had littered the front of our house for over a week. There was a dumpster in the parking lot now, so I filled it with siding, tree limbs, and trash that made it look unkempt. And even though the fire-scarred structure was unavoidable, I felt like I made a dent in things.

So here we are now, four weeks since the fire, and we're still at my parents' place. They said they should have everything cleaned up by early next week, but I'd bet that those two weeks actually end up being six. But even though the commute is annoying (I'm spoiled), and it's tough to keep track of stuff while living out of suitcases, it's been good. We've been reminded of how much we love living in the city. We've had the chance to spend quality time with my parents. And we had a week away in Florida to keep our mind off of things. It could've been much, much worse.

I'm sure there will be other lessons to be gleaned from this. But I'm done learnin' for now.