Thursday, January 6, 2011


Imagine my surprise to get a phone call at 6am. I was awake (I tutor Korean students in English in the wee small hours of the morning) but I rarely have phone calls. I didn't recognize the number on the caller id (they were calling my cell phone) so I ignored it. Then the same number called the home phone. At that point, I figured it was someone who really wanted to talk to me, so I answered it. It was my daughter, calling from a cell phone in her swim team practice carpool telling me they'd just driven past a house on fire in our neighborhood. Later, I found out that she'd even seen the flames from her bedroom window as she'd gotten ready for practice that morning. This was scary and exciting and scary and impossible and mostly scary.

Of course, as soon as my work was finished, I ventured down the street to see it for myself. The road was blocked off by official cars and people were working hard to put the fire out. I didn't stay long--I didn't want to be in the way, and I didn't want anyone assuming the frumpy housewife taking pictures in her fuzzy slippers was the arsonist.

pictures taken from the backside of the house, in a nearby cul-de-sac

The stretch of road that this house was on was closed for the next 24 hours or so, while investigators did their work. There was a big mobile communications truck, and lots of people milling about. I've never seen so many people walking around out neighborhood before--mostly regular citizens wanting to see what was happening. I felt like they were treating this fire as an arson fire until they knew for sure what had caused the fire.

You see, our little city of Albany has a serial arsonist. You can read more about it in the local paper here and here. So far, the targets were empty or abandoned buildings. Some were homes that were in the process of being remodeled. One was an empty restaurant on one of the main streets into our town from I-5. This fire was well underway by the time the neighbors realized what was happening and called the authorities.

What really makes this fire different and scary was that this was the first home that was occupied. Luckily, no one was hurt. But the devastation, the loss, was complete. The woman who lives here literally has nothing left. It hurts to drive by it. I find myself taking the alternate route home more and more, so I don't have to see it. When I see this terrible aftermath, I can't help but think of how easily that could have been me. It's very humbling. It makes me grateful that my family is safe.

I have no idea what goes through a person's mind when they decide to commit a crime of this magnitude. To me, it is immensely selfish. I hope that this fire means he'll (or she'll) move on, away from my neighborhood, so that no one else close to me suffers. I actually hope that they'll be caught and punished, that appropriate consequences will be enforced. This is a terrible, terrible thing. I hope that there is a satisfactory end to all of it, especially for the owner of this house (and the other buildings that were burned).


Janet said...

That is so scary!! I'm glad that no one was hurt. You will be in my prayers.

Mom said...

Wow! I recognize the house now. So glad you are safe!