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When The Unthinkable Happens: Lessons From A House Fire

What lessons can you learn from our house fire? We reflect on our loss and what we have learned at our three year anniversary of our fire. House Fire | Emergency Preparedness | Lessons Learned

We were on a Spring Break trip to Texas. We had been visiting family and doing a lot of fun activities together. The night before we had gone to a Texas Ranger Baseball game and got back to the resort late.

The next morning, we got the phone call no one wants to get; but especially when they are on vacation a 1,000 miles away. First it was a friend and then the fire chief: Your house has caught on fire and has burned down.

You never really think something like this is going to happen to you.

Before:

What lessons can you learn from our house fire? We reflect on our loss and what we have learned at our three year anniversary of our fire. House Fire | Emergency Preparedness | Lessons Learned

After:

What lessons can you learn from our house fire? We reflect on our loss and what we have learned at our three year anniversary of our fire. House Fire | Emergency Preparedness | Lessons Learned

You have prepared your family for a house fire and where to meet outside if it ever happened. But you don’t think it will. And you definitely don’t think it will happen when you aren’t there to stop it.

Sometimes things happen in our lives that knock us off our feet and disorient us to our surroundings. Our house fire on April 3rd, 2014 did just that.

But once the smoke cleared, there are 8 big lessons we learned that I wanted to share with you three years later.

What lessons can you learn from our house fire? We reflect on our loss and what we have learned at our three year anniversary of our fire. House Fire | Emergency Preparedness | Lessons Learned

1. Stuff is just stuff and can be replaced.

We lost almost everything we owned that day except what we took on vacation, our cars and rv and a few things that had been lent out to other people. It was like the ultimate decluttering with some things gone that you didn’t want to get rid of. But you know what? Belongings can be replaced. Yes, there were family heirlooms and pictures that can’t be replaced. But most of the stuff you have accumulated over the years can be replaced. The house can be replaced. It can even be better than it was before. Losing almost everything makes you realize what you have.

Kids’ Room:

What lessons can you learn from our house fire? We reflect on our loss and what we have learned at our three year anniversary of our fire. House Fire | Emergency Preparedness | Lessons Learned

2. Our family and animals were safe.

I go back and forth even still about whether it would have been better if we had been home for the fire instead of on vacation. And while we didn’t get to choose, here are some reasons I’m glad we weren’t there.

  • Our kids don’t have bad dreams or anxiety about the fire because when they left the house was good and when they got back the house was gone. They didn’t have to watch it burn.
  • Our family didn’t get hurt in the fire because we weren’t there. Our animals are outside animals (dog, cat and chickens) and so they were able to stay safe.
  • I wonder if we had been there if we could have stopped it. Who knows? You can’t spend your time on what ifs. You have to accept what is and move on.

What lessons can you learn from our house fire? We reflect on our loss and what we have learned at our three year anniversary of our fire. House Fire | Emergency Preparedness | Lessons Learned

3. We have amazing friends that helped us get back on our feet.

That country song “You find out who your friends are” by  Tracy Lawrence, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney still gets to me because after the fire we had so much support from our friends, family and even strangers.

A friend of ours was a fireman that was on the scene. He had the foresight to bring out the scrapbooks that he could salvage away from the house to reduce water damage.

We had friends that took us in for a few days and even a week while we found a place to stay.

A friend let us live in her house rent free while we built our new house.

Friends donated clothing and other things they thought we might need.

We had talented ladies from church make us several quilts that were very nice and we still love.

We had friends help us find things in the rubble, and watch our animals.

There is an endless number of things that were done on our behalf after the fire that we can never repay. Those people made this hard time bearable and even a blessing.

Tractor parked in the garage:

What lessons can you learn from our house fire? We reflect on our loss and what we have learned at our three year anniversary of our fire. House Fire | Emergency Preparedness | Lessons Learned

4. Insurance is a necessary evil.

We had homeowner’s insurance on our home and it made all the difference. Our insurance agency (USAA) took great care of us. The home was considered a total loss, although the cause was never determined. They were quick to get things done and get us back on our feet. We will never leave USAA because of the way they treated us in this hard time. Insurance is something that you pay for but hope you never need. Being insured is part of any good emergency preparedness plan.

5. Back up your computer and photos online.

I talk about it in this post, but having documents and photos backed up online or outside of the home is a must.

We backed up our photos on a external hard drive next to my computer. I always thought that in case of an emergency, I could just grab the hard drive and go. Who would have thought I wouldn’t be home to do that?

Luckily, because of my scrapbooking addiction, I had 14,000 pictures online at Shutterfly.com that I could download to disk and recover. I also had an old blog that had years of family pictures on it. Between those places and help from friends and family we have been able to piece our family history record back together.

Backup Storage Suggestions:

I suggest using an online backup system like Carbonite to back up your computer (files and photos) to the internet.

Also, upload your pictures to a site like Shutterfly so that you can print them later if needed. Shutterfly does not require a minimum order to keep your photos stored online.

I also have my phone pictures automatically backed up to flickr.com through a phone app for safe keeping.

If you have an iPhone you can keep your photos in the cloud to keep them safe. You can access them with another Mac if you lose your phone.

What lessons can you learn from our house fire? We reflect on our loss and what we have learned at our three year anniversary of our fire. House Fire | Emergency Preparedness | Lessons Learned

6. Get a fireproof safe and actually use it.

We had a fireproof box that we had bought at the beginning of the year. But we never put anything in it. We could have saved important documents and saved us a lot of time later by preserving them in that box.

I would suggest getting a gun safe or some kind of fireproof container to put your valuables (guns, paper, coins, etc.) in and keep it updated each year. For more information on fire ratings, check out this website.

7. You never know how much you can handle until it is put before you.

There are worse things in life than a house fire. No one was hurt or killed. But it was a trial that we went through and it was hard at the time.

Now that three years have passed, we can see the lessons learned and the blessing received during that trial.

8. Blessings We Have Received:

Now we have a beautiful new home and have replaced most of the material things that we lost.

We have become closer as a family by going through this trial together.

We are even more sympathetic when we see someone else in a similar situation.

We are thankful for all of the friends and family that helped us recover and build again.

What lessons can you learn from our house fire? We reflect on our loss and what we have learned at our three year anniversary of our fire. House Fire | Emergency Preparedness | Lessons Learned

We were hesitant to leave the new house after it was built, even to go on a short vacation. The kids took everything that was important with them in the car the first time we left.

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Life goes on and we are used to the new normal. Trials are given to us in our lives to learn from and move on. I share these photos and lessons we have learned today so that maybe someone else will be better prepared to face this type of trial than we were.

What lessons can you learn from our house fire? We reflect on our loss and what we have learned at our three year anniversary of our fire. House Fire | Emergency Preparedness | Lessons Learned

How has being prepared helped you face trials in your life? Please share in the comments below. Thanks!

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4 comments

  1. Kelly Sage

    We, unfortunately, have quite a few friends who have also lost their homes. They’ve mentioned similar learnings about the value of things and connections after the fire. Puts a very scary worry into perspective. We use USAA too and have been grateful every time we’ve had to call upon them! Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply

    1. Julie @ Our Provident Homestead

      Thanks so much for your comment! It was a trial I hope to never have to go through again, but hopefully writing about it will help someone else. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

  2. Janelle Cluff

    I remember when that fire happened. I’m so glad you posted the whole story and what you learned from it. Thank you!

    Reply

    1. Julie @ Our Provident Homestead

      Thanks Janelle! Sometimes it feels like so long ago and sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

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