Coming soon, pictures of the fire, as soon as I find the camera!
Regular readers of my blog might remember a post I wrote about a feud in my neighborhood between the two neighbors in the houses at the end of my driveway. Click here to read the original story. Last night there was a fire and all the drama played out at the end of my driveway.
My husband Paul and I were watching TV when my son, who had stepped out on the front porch to smoke a cigarette, stepped back in the house and declared “Jerry’s house is on fire!” Sure enough, flames were shooting skyward from the roof and there was an orange glow around the house. Paul yelled at Jordan, my son, to call 911 and he ran to his pickup and sped down the driveway. I heard Jordan say into the phone “My neighbor’s house is on fire” and give our address. I headed down the driveway. The stillness of the neighborhood was shattered as Paul honked his horn all the way down the driveway.
There were no lights on at the house next door to the fire. I was concerned that the fire would spread. I ran to the house and pounded on the door. I could hear dogs barking inside. The fire was blazing above the roof of Jerry’s house and now I could hear popping noises and an occasional whosh followed by even higher and brighter flames. No one answered the door.
I joined Paul in Jerry’s driveway and he told me that Jerry and his wife were not home. They had gone camping just that afternoon. We were talking about how to move Jerry’s pickup away from the house when the neighbor’s door opened. We could hear moaning like oooh, ooh, oooh. I ran over and excitedly exclaimed “The neighbor’s house is on fire. I thought you would want to know. You might want to start up a garden hose and wet down your roof.”
Half hidden behind the door Phyllis, the illusive neighbor, said “I was taking a shower.”
Later I would wonder to myself why she was showering in the dark.
“I’m worried about the fire spreading” I told her.
“Oh my back pasture is so dry” Phyllis responds.
“Well, if I were you I would wet down my roof just in case.” I said to her as I turned to leave. I wasn’t concerned about a pasture; I was worried about the structures.
Back in Jerry’s driveway additional neighbors had arrived. There was a halfhearted attempt to find garden hoses, but everyone was worried about getting too close to the fire as there were flare-ups and small explosive pops. Someone yelled to keep clear of the windows because they were going to explode. We tried to move the pickup, but without a key we couldn’t move it out of gear to push it out of the way. Paul went back to our house to get a chain so they could pull the car away from the flames.
The air was thick with smoke. The house next door remained dark and Phyllis never came outside. We waited for what seemed an eternity for the fire department. Finally the chief showed up and shortly thereafter the first of three fire trucks. Soon hoses were uncoiled and firemen were breaking down a door to get into the house. The road was clogged with emergency vehicles and all the neighbors. We shared information about where Jerry and his wife had gone and who we should get in touch with. Jerry’s son was contacted and someone else had Jerry’s cell phone number. Unfortunately, there was no cell service where they were camping. We relayed this information to the fire chief and told him that Jerry’s son was on the way.
The house next door remained dark and the lights of the fire trucks flashed red against the windows. The smoke continued to boil out the holes in the roof of Jerry’s house.
The neighbors stood together and watched the action. We introduced ourselves to those that we hadn’t met before and got caught up with neighbors that we hadn’t talked to in awhile. A strange little gathering…rather like being in the drawing room in an Agatha Christie novel. All the characters were there, we were just missing a murder. I enjoying visiting with the neighbors who I hadn’t talked to in a long while, but I also was mentally taking notes of the characters.
Two of Jerry’s sons and a daughter showed up. The younger son, wearing only one shoe, was falling down drunk. He soon lost his remaining shoe and I noticed that his toes were all twisted. He sat down in the middle of our driveway and shouted mostly unintelligible comments that were ignored.
The buzz in the neighborhood crowd soon turned to talk of the Phyllis/Jerry feud and everyone wondered where Phyllis was. The collective reasoning was that if the house next door is on fire, the neighbor would be outside watching. Several of the people had had run-ins with Phyllis. One neighbor had been sued, twice, in small claims court. The suits were later dropped. Jerry’s son, the one with the twisted toes, mumbled that if it was arson then she sure as hell did it. “She did it!” he yelled.
An ambulance arrived and pulled into Phyllis’s driveway. The house was still dark. The firemen/paramedics pounded on the door and there was no answer. I told them that she had been home earlier, but we hadn’t seen her since. I watched through the living room window as a fireman broke into the back of the house, climbed down over a washer and dryer and turned the interior lights on. He opened the door to the other responders. Phyllis was on the floor of the living room. A paramedic told me that they were responding to a call of lower back pain.
The neighborhood watched as Phyllis was brought out on a stretcher. Hurt her back setting the fire someone said.
This morning the fire marshal was here to interview us as part of the investigation into the cause of the fire. I hope they will be able to determine the exact cause. Because of the history of animosity among the neighbors, it would be a relief to have a clear answer.