Luckily, it was not our roof.
I had just gotten home yesterday afternoon from work and was on the phone with my best friend and next door neighbor, C. Sitting in my car, sifting through the mail, I thought I smelled smoke.
I happened to look at our next-door neighbor's house and, sure enough, curls of smoke were wafting through the roof. I told C, "I think our neighbor's house is on fire."
I hung up and ran (waddled quickly) to their front yard. Honestly, I was thinking that I might be imagining things. It was enough smoke to be concerning, but there were no visible flames. All of the windows in the house were open, so I wondered if they were home and perhaps had burned something in the oven. I ran (waddled quickly) up their front stairs and pounded on the door. There was no answer and now that I was closer, I could see that the house was filled with smoke. I got the heck off of the porch and really ran (not even a waddle this time) to the safety of my own front yard. By this time, C had joined me, and we looked at each other in disbelief.
It was time to dial 9-1-1. They promised a "big response" would be there shortly.
Within minutes, the smoke had gotten much worse. A neighbor from across the street came running over and also pounded on the door. C had just seen the wife less than an hour before. With all of the windows open and her car in the driveway, we were sure she was home and visions of her passed out somewhere from smoke inhalation were troubling all of us. Another neighbor ran around back and their slider door was open, but the screen was locked. With all of the smoke, he didn't think it was safe to go in the house.
A couple of seconds later, flames started shooting out from the front of the house and a third neighbor grabbed a hose and started spraying. All of a sudden, I realized how dry their front lawn is, and how close our house is to theirs and I started thinking about our house, too.
Fortunately, the first of twelve fire vehicles was there and firemen pouring out of the it, in less than five minutes. The ladder was out, the hose going strong, and soon they were on the roof, chainsawing their way through to the fire.
Of course, a large crowd soon gathered to watch their efforts. It took awhile for them to clear the roof fire before one of the firefighters could get in to see if anyone was inside. With the exception of the very scared family cat, the house was empty. Thank God.
After the fire was extinguished and the safety of our neighbors established, everyone could breathe a sigh of relief. Soon, the firefighters were offering to let the little kids peek in the trucks and handing out free plastic hats. It almost started feeling like a block party.
Until our neighbors returned home and we all realized what they had lost. The structure itself is definitely salvageable - most of the damage was to the roof and the front pillar, but there is a lot of smoke and water damage. They are unable to stay in the house for now. C and I both offered our spare bedrooms, but they are going to stay with nearby family.
One of our neighbors took this picture after the excitement had died down. You can see the house is still in good shape. There is a tarp on th roof and you can see the bare spot on the left pillar where they stripped off the siding to get to the fire.