Thanks to firefighters

Published 10:31 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Our house is on fire!”

These five words passed through the phone lines to my wife in August 1985. She instantly recognized them coming from her panic-stricken mother-in-law.

As I raced down the road, I came upon a scene incomprehensible. From the home in which I had spent my entire childhood, from the structure that contained a thousand mementos and memories, from the place my parents had raised their family and now resided, white billows of smoke were pouring out through the eaves of the entire house.

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As I turned into the lane, I came upon neighbors and friends frantically bringing out every piece of furniture, files, pictures and furnishings they could lay their hands on, and then racing back inside to retrieve more.

No one knew how much time we had. It forced agonizing decisions as to what to haul out next with no time for discussion. It seemed at any moment the entire attic might burst into one big fireball above our heads.

Then I heard the sirens. Then I saw those big red trucks come tearing down the lane and burst onto the scene.

In what seemed like seconds men were rolling out fire hoses. Instantly, they were on the roof and commenced to do something I had never fathomed. They chopped a hole in the roof directly above the kitchen stove, where the fire had started, inserted a hose and turned it to mist. It went directly to the smoldering oxygen-starved embers, turned into steam and within minutes, the entire fire was out, suffocating from lack of oxygen.

Just like that! My goodness.

I was told later that with perhaps 10 minutes more, should the fire have gotten oxygen, the whole place would have gone up in flames.

As it was, though the roof had to be reshingled and the dining room ceiling replaced, there was very little water damage, and all the furnishings, save for some attic belongings, were salvaged.

Today, 31 years later, my parents still reside there. We gather for holiday feasts, watch football games, tell stories and admire sunsets and grandkids in the back yard. It’s a wonderful, memory-filled place.

Thank you, Windsor and Carrsville volunteer fire departments.

REX ALPHIN is the chairman of the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors and a former longtime columnist for The Tidewater News and Suffolk News-Herald.