When I was 13 years old I looooved candles, I had heaps, and I loved lighting them playing with the was putting them out with your fingers… you know stupid things that kids do. One day got into my head it was a good idea to light tissues. I was lighting them watching them burn putting it out etc. I wasn’t a pyromaniac I was just a kid learning and experimenting. My mum caught me doing this, thankfully her logical adult brain told me to knock it off. She’d left to visit my grandfather in hospital and being my rebellious self I kept mucking around. I then decided to go do something else so I put the tissue out and left my room. The date was the 12th of December 1999, I will never forget this day it is forever etched into my memory.
I was underneath our house when I heard my sister run down the stairs, she was searching for my brother. Who had chosen this particular time to hide from her, my sister never sore and when she did, he ran out to look for her. My siblings are quite a bit older than me so my sister was 27 and my brother 23. Then I heard her tell him “There is a fire in the roof”. My heart sunk, rock bottom in my toes, because I knew in that moment it was my fault. What I had done, when I put out the tissue I had squeezed it in another tissue thinking I’d smother the flames, but then I threw it into a bin full of tissues… and well that was very flammable. I am huge advocate of fire safety now, and I emphasise that everyone should have an escape plan and practice it… why? Because I ran past 4 garages, and two doors none of which were locked just to prove to myself that it was my fault. I stupidly then opened my bedroom door and I am so very fortunate that I wasn’t engulfed in a ball of flame because opening the door would have provided a burst of oxygen and neither did the handle burn my hand. What happened next I can never explain, someone behind me told me to get out. “Get out, run, leave now”, all I can remember is seeing a white shape there but not actually any details. So I ran, it was also only at this point the smoke alarms started going off and my room was extremely on fire at this stage. Out the back of the house I could see my sister at the front of our driveway who was very distressed. I knew I was safe but it was my room on fire and no one had seen me, I went to walk towards her right as windows exploded sending shards of glass all over a path I was about to take. I ended up running the full circle of the house to get to her.
Thankfully that day no one got hurt, other than a little girls pride. My dad, brother and neighbours had the fire out before the fire brigade arrived by using garden hoses. My mum got a very odd phone call at the hospital and quickly scuttled home. Just desserts I guess the only room of our house damaged by fire was mine. Majority of the house had smoke damage but that’s easy enough to paint over, my mums sewing room below received a lot of water damage but a fraction of what it would have been if the fire department had used their hoses. I lost everything. My underwear was burnt, my shoes gone, my pink teddy that my Pop had given me when I was born, gone. My biggest regret is actually letting other people help me clean out my room, because for years later I would still go searching for things and not know where they were. Was that book pre-fire? Or post? Have I missed placed it, lost it or did it also burn?
I have 3 candles in my house now, when we have a blackout they come out, otherwise I don’t burn candles at all in my home. I just can’t. After these ones are gone I’ll probably just use our phones from now on. My daughter won’t be allowed to play with candle ever, its not worth the risk to me. I constantly talk about fire safety and I’ve planned escape routes in my home and I’ve even considered how I’ll evacuate my daughter and my dog if I ever need to. I highly encourage you to do the same, plan a route with your family and practice it. There is nothing more terrifying than not knowing the way out in the dark, when there is smoke and you cannot see.
18 years later and I still remember this day every year, I wonder if I still will in another 18.
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