Friday, November 6, 2009

Where there's smoke, there's fire

A photographer from the Long Beach Press Telegram captured the moment on camera as a firefighter gently brought Ellen back to life with an oxygen mask.

For years, I harbored a fear that I knew was irrational: that my home would burst into flames in my absence.

The phobia wasn’t fostered because I own items with great monetary value. It’s my animals I worry about—that they will end up as tiny charred bodies in a closet, suffocating to death, wondering where I was when they needed saving.

At least, I used to think it was a completely irrational fear. Until I met my friend Danny Parizek in Los Angeles.

Shortly before we became acquainted, Danny was on a day trip to San Diego on Christmas Eve 1999 when he got the phone call that plays in my worst nightmares. His brother was on the line with bad news. The apartment occupied by him and his partner was on fire.

“We raced back,” Danny said.

The apartment building had been constructed in the 1920s to house naval officers. The suspected cause of the fire was faulty wiring going to a hallway closet light.

Danny remembers that when they got inside their place that night, the Christmas tree stood in the living room, its melted ornaments still attached. All possessions were destroyed. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

Their two cats had been trapped inside during the fire. Jack, a three-month-old kitten, had sought refuge under the bed. He was dead.

“We were devastated, we were heartbroken,” Danny said. “We wouldn’t wish a fire on our worst enemy.”

But this horrible tragedy was wrapped in a miracle.

Three-year-old Ellen was more savvy than baby Jack, and stationed herself at the only open window. There in the front room, she managed to breathe in clean air and survived until firefighters arrived to douse the flames.

As for me, I'm like a mother with children. Not truly relaxed unless I see my babies are safe in front of my eyes. But for now, I'm trying to let my fear of fire go up in flames.


Anonymous said...

I loved it. Very well done. It brings back that terrible day for me, but the greatest gift is that Ellen is still alive and running our house. She is supported by two other cats and two dogs. She truly was given another chance that day. Thank you for elegantly bringing up the past and doing it with grace. Great job.

Anonymous said...

This message is for Ellen's owner: I can only imagine your horror at the time this happened. And even now I feel your heartache as you recall that terrible day. But I applaud you for letting Carreen write the story because although in your particular case, there can be no blame whatsoever attached, it is a wake up call for animal owners/lovers everywhere. To ensure that they never take chances on anything electrical that they suspect may be faulty, that they check and double check that plug in appliances are unplugged, not just turned off, before they leave home, etc. In printing this story, a profound message has been delivered. Thank you for caring enough to let it be told.
And kudos to the dedicated firefighter who took care of your Ellen.

Carreen Maloney said...

Sciguy4: It wasn't an easy story to tell because I still remember the pain you went through losing your beloved Jack. Yet Ellen's survival was truly a miracle of Fate.
Anonymous: So true that this is a wake-up call. While nothing could have been done to prevent the fire in this instance, there are times that human error is the root cause of a tragic event.