Monday, September 14, 2009


Here we are in our new home. My wife said to me that any scenes of fires on TV can make her upset. Other then that she's been taking things very well considering. In my last article I did not really have the time to think much and I should say I was still more or less in shock.  I'm now using Ubuntu Linex to add this article to my site. There are so many pictures I have to show.. here are just a few success stories.. important moments, and other things I've captured since I got my new Fuji S1500 camera. Only one camera survived the fire.. a 35mm SLR with one lens on it. The story is below.

I want to thank the local ham radio community for welcoming me here in Portland.  I have been off the radio for a few weeks and may be so because of stress with bills and just dealing with all that has happened.  I'm sorry if I talked to you on the radio and did not respond later or just been off air.   We have had to do all kinds of hard stuff to setup medical and dental for myself and my wife as well as continue to process what has happened.  We need some down time.. I'll be back on the air soon!  And thank everyone who has welcomed me here. 

First of all..our heroic neighbor should be noted most of all.   When others were taking pictures and watching.. he got right in there with me and helped pull my wife out of the fire.   I don't know what to say accept a very humble thank you.  When my wife was still in the house my plan was to pull her out as I figured in the less then 30sec we had to get out and shock of it all that was the only way for us to make sure she was safe.  She was afraid to go out the window since she knew the yard was on fire so I went first to check things out.

First on scene was the above man.. Ed Schenck. A man who truly is in our harts a hero for both being there and being one to do something (rather then just take pictures and videos or stare at it--I don't know which is worse!) as well as being there for me to help pull my wife out of the large somewhat high window.

At first I thought he was a fireman as the contrary to what the paper said.. fire was on scene as I was just climbing out the window. I thought it was one of the ambulance crew who was there standing by me asking if there was anyone else in the house. I was yelling for my wife and trying to show her where the window was since smoke was so intense. In hindsight I feel horrible because had I not been woke up from a dead sleep I'd have pushed her out the window before me and thus she would not have had such a hard time with smoke inhalation.

However.. she does not blame me and claims myself and Ed saved her life as she was not right behind me when I ripped out the screen to get out. I knew we both had to get out.. and figured she was right behind me and would follow. I became very afraid when I realized she was still on the bed coughing inside and began screaming loudly for her and putting my hands in the window to try and lead her to it. She had trouble finding footing as she was unable to see.. the smoke came in so fast it was far faster then we thought it might. By the time I opened the door we had about 30sec to get out. Had I not opened the front door we would have had more time to get out and time to even save gear. I did save of course.. after seeing my laptop and grabbing what I thought was one of my expensive camera bags with a DSLR and my HD video cam in it.. WE GOT TO GO.. NOW no more time for stuff.

The only reason I grabbed my laptop bag was because it was ready to go and right there by the window. But right next to it was both my main camera bags.. also ready to go. About 20,000 dollars in camera gear. Destroyed in seconds by fire and water damage later. What of course is most important is that I realized when we had to go and did not keep throwing things outside.. I just went and knew my wife was right behind me. Ed got there as I was grabbing her hand leading her up into the window. I was not trying to pull her out by one hand as the paper says. This all happened so fast and the paper got it other things wrong when it came to timing and how events happened. I asked ED who I thought was a fireman "will you help me pull my wife out.." had I known he was civilian I would not have asked him to do so. I was about ready to go as I had just found her hand and pull her out myself when Ed was standing right next too me. The ambulance had just pulled up so I thought that he was a fireman and in better shape then I was for doing something like this.. that's why I asked him. I have picked my wife up before.. but getting her out was the most important thing and I am still angry at myself for not being the last one out. That will never happen again.   But she views it differently as she says.. I did all I could and more by trying and had Ed not been there I would have been the one to have to do it. In a situation like this I'm sure I could have, but in hindsight.. I should have thought to check and then push her out. I was not afraid for my life and running from the fire or something. In fact.. I was scolded by the fire-fighters for running back to the window when I knew my wife was safe to attempt to grab my wallet bag (with my ID and money cards etc..) from the window. Later I would find it burned up.. the entire room having been torched. However.. incredibly and thanks very much to Ed.. a stranger to me who volunteered on the spot to help.. my wife and I are alive and well. In hindsight had my wife not survived this.. there is no way I could have lived with myself. Not a chance. I also made sure that our neighbors whose' house caught fire due to heat alone from ours had gotten out ok. Had I not seen them there.. I'd have gone over myself and started to bang on doors, break windows.. or anything I could to get there attention. Something nobody really did for us except Ed. It's hard to tell if we are home.. but they knew we were because we mostly were home all the time since I am disabled and have a hard time getting around now days. We also cannot afford a car.. so there was no way for onlookers to know if we were home or not.

 One thing is for sure.. my wife is also the hero here. She's the one who could not sleep and for some reason thought to check to see if she'd left something on. She had a feeling that saved our lives. Had that not happened.. smoke may well have killed us in our sleep as nobody seemed to think to knock on walls, break windows.. or do whatever is necessary to make sure nobody is home when a house is obviously completely on fire!  I know I would in a situation like that if it was reverenced.   In our opinion.. the Ed and the fire department were heroes in this as were the hospital staff. I will never forget what Ed did for me in helping my wife get out. A disaster like this is a true test of character.. and we saw that in many ways with many people here. Friends.. family.. neighbors. Most of it good.. some of it not so good and something I don't want to get into here. We are glad to be alive. We lost everything except my laptop and a couple of programmable transceivers (HTs). However we gained allot of faith in family, friends and humanity. I was not under any illusion that I would get any money for my lost stuff. From antiques to my camera gear.. all destroyed and as we only had the most basic insurance.. there was nothing to help us for anything.  That's right, I got no money in insurance to replace any of the lost items in our house. It took me many years to get that gear. The neighbors are planning to rebuild I hear.. and a man bought the lot from my mom (thank God) letting her be free of payments on a mortgage for a house that no longer exists.

The front page.  I finally made it into the paper.   Not the way I wanted to as a photographer.  However.. my day for that will come with the hope I have.

Good friends and good food greeted us when we were in shock over the two weeks we stayed in The Dalles while my mom and aunt Karolyn took care of very important business to move us and furnish our apartment. Thanks to Spencer and Jen Harmon.. we had a nice place to stay, food, and a ride to our most important appointments with local offices. Honestly.. they have been the best friends ever.

Spencer really knows how to barbeque chicken! Although the sight of flames and the smell of fire was not something my wife and I wanted to have.. the chicken was really good.

A moonscape.. that's all that is left. My house was gone before I had a chance to see if many items that may have survived did survive and recover things I knew did. One thing I also advice people is that if your house gets in a disaster.. be sure and be clear with everyone when the demolition is going to be. I lost allot in the fire.. but I possibly lost allot more then I had too. Judging by what I found that did survive even though our mattress in the main radio room burned up nearly completely as did most everything else in the room.. I have questions about what might have survived.. looters.. and really wish I'd have been given a chance to supervise the situation and check things out more in that room before they demolished everything. They were unable to find my firebox safe. Which was rated for med-temp fires. That's what they said. I trust the company to an extent.. since the contents of the safe were not worth anything.. I doubt that they were able to find it and I know they tried. I had dozens of computers, old radios.. backup files.. personal and legal logs.. and that safe which of all things I thought would make it. NOPE. The safest place in your home from fire is probably your fridge. That firebox most likely just melted and even if it had been recovered the contents including my grandads war dairy, my passport.. and other items would have been destroyed inside it from shear heat. .

Where our home used to be.. click on this to see a panoramic shot of the exterior site. The large tree on the left was very lucky.. had this fire been this month or later.. it would have been all dry leaves.. making for a huge roman candle which could have taken out several other homes nearby.

The room we escaped from and where some items survived the fire but were probably just bulldozed and destroyed. Things that worked once dried out amazed me.. my laptops power supply.. my VX-7 6m/2m/220/440 HT charger.. 6 USB external hard disk drives.. and one radio as well as a film camera survived. We escaped from the far right window.

This is a picture of a 6m walkie talkie (49Mhz) you can't get these anymore except if you are very lucky. It was destroyed in the fire but behind it you can see the Wouxun Professional FM Transceiver which survived both being heated and completely filled with water while the battery was still connected. I let it dry out for days not thinking it had a chance in hell. I would find incredibly.. it survived and lived up to it's name. A relatively inexpensive 2m rig.. the rubber insulation for the microphone port was actually taken off so water freely came into the radio. Despite all this.. it still works great on local repeaters and both TX RX there's nothing wrong with it after I got it cleaned up. A mil speck FT50R and a Bendix&King rig in the same area were not so lucky. Those radios made in China are not as cheap as some people think!

The 2m (TX RX 136-174Mhz) KG-689 Transceiver still showing full of water the night after I finally was granted access to the room again by the fire department. As you can see water is visible in the display.

The radio turned on after being aired out for over a week and recharged. The charger was in the "wrong bag" I grabbed. So after a normal recharge.. it's Litho batteries came right back to life and after taking apart an old SMA adapter burned in the fire.. I made a 1/4 wave ant for it's male SMA ant. The rubber duck antenna for this radio was one item I saw that was undamaged in the fire and planned to retrieve on my return trip.. but I returned to them having not only demolished but taken away everything before I got a chance to return.

Another view of the working radio. Two other radios turn on.. but there internal microphones are destroyed.. this one lived up to it's "professional" standards.

Another view of the one radio that survived the fire and water.. the Wouxun Professional FM Transceiver in full working order.

Another find.. this camera was in a small cabinet along with my main software. Some disks are corrupted some are not. I was lucky that allot of my PC software survived because it was in this cabinet and thus isolated from most of the heat as was this camera. Smoke alone got to it and covered it in a black film. The UV lens filter saved it's lens from fire damage and upon clean-up it seems this camera will work fine.. I have yet to put a roll of film and light meter battery in it.. but I think it made it. The case was too baddy damaged but protected it from some of the heat.
The Minolta 35mm SLR after cleanup. I used mostly water and rags to scrub the outside of the camera. Inside.. the seal in tact.. the shutter and curtain are in good shape.

This bag was possibly the most amazing find of all. Clearly you can see it was on fire. It was full of hard drives.. about 8 of them or so.

These hard drives SURVIVED THE FIRE! With one exception in this picture.. the 2nd on the left which did not activate when I hooked it up to USB. I think it just did not have as much protection. The WD drive was the most amazing. A Western Digital HDD survived even though it's side clearly was on fire and melted. These hard drives were also completely virtually submerged in water in this bag and were extremely wet. After letting them dry out in a barbeque.. most of them came right up on screen. I have yet to see the scope of pictures that survived.. but I know this..external hard drives are the most easy and survivable form of backup possible.. as 99% ..well over 2000 CD/DVDs were destroyed in this fire including my entire music collection and video library which was extensive on DVD and VHS.
The Western Digital survived even though it had a melted side that was clearly on fire. Nothing in that room stayed cooler then 200 degrees.. I found this less then five feet from a metal antenna tuner that had literally melted.

One box of tightly packed negatives and pictures survived and made it out simply because they were all in one place and in a spot that did not burn. If you separate them while still wet.. pictures will recover and survive. Negatives also made it.. however.. all of the negatives I personally developed were destroyed..along with many other things from my childhood that cannot be replaced. It's extremely painful. Alina lost her few only possessions and cloths..yearbook and her computer which in the intense situation she actually took the time to shut down while I was tearing out the screen to get out the window. Had we not had that airplane window that opens out like that.. I would have had to push out the air-con and keep the other window open.. my wife may not have made it out in time.
A slightly damaged Canon Rebel XTI with battery grip. There are so many things I did not even find. In theory I still have this stuff as it's at a friends house in storage but somebody might steal it. I plan to put these camera's up on ebay someday if I can get them back. Who knows.. they sell everything else on Ebay!! All my cameras 4 digital SLRs.. a bunch of nice film cameras.. antique cameras.. and all lenses and extensions were destroyed. One lens.. a 300mm macro may have made it I don't know since I have no Canon digital SLR to test it on any more. Had I not been on a sleeping pill at the time and woken up out of dead sleep.. I'd probably have had enough time to throw out the main camera bags which were right next to the laptop bag. I will spend a very long time whether I like it or not.. asking myself why I didn't have time to throw those bags out. It all came down to knowing we had to get out and I did not have time to think about stuff. It was just pure luck my laptop was visible and right there.. as was the VX-7R radio.. and I was so out of it from waking up to this nightmare on sleeping pills I grabbed the wrong bag and did not even get to my wallet bag. Smoke was coming in too fast to think about things after I opened the front door not knowing that I'd receive 2nd degree burns. A back-draft burned me instantly from the heat and oxygen getting into the house.. It was like literally being in that movie.

The burns have healed up nice now and miraculously healed quickly and well. Thanks possibly in part to the blessing my wife and I got from the LDS Church when we were at the hospital.
Our Wii System..slightly charred. After some talking my friend Spence was nice enough to get them to order a new one for us. They actually honored that contract and gave us a new Wii and by some miracle I found the Wii Sports disk that was missing from the box brand new and Goodwill in Portland for 15 bucks!

A few items survived.. my pocket watch stopped at the time it was destroyed. The glass cracked and the mechanize wreaked. Kays did not give me the replacement even though I was supposed to get it because they were supposed to give me the new one with a chain. I should have argued that point.. but they did not let me get a new one and of course I could not afford to buy one now. That was pretty rude given the circumstances and the fact that they had agreed to give me the other one in exchange because it did not come with a chain. Whatever.
The warranty only lasts as long as I payed for it on credit. The spider books survived! I've had the book on the left which incredibly was sheltered from both fire and water for the most part since 1985. That's about 25 years now. I was really lucky to get that back.

A few items shown as I learn to use my new camera. My station log and other stuff we bagged up on my first and only return to the sight before it was demolished.
The MP3 player I was listening too that night actually melted! I shutter to think what would have happened had my wife been able to sleep that night. God was giving her a sign. I had been pledged with disaster dreams for months and not knew why. Since this happened.. they have stopped. I was amazed by how hot things got. I had the headphones hooked up to this mp3 player when my wife woke me up. Its ere almost like looking at the stuff they found in a tomb. About 15 years ago.. a house fire happened next door.. and a lady died in it. So that area is not new to fires. My house was built in 1946. And sadly destroyed in 2009. It makes my stomach turn and makes me sick to think of all this.. but I want people to know our story and to learn something from it. Smokers be ware of danger. Smoking is the number one cause of house fires.

COMPUTER SOFTWARE and backup disks.. some of it works.. some of it is corrupted even though the disks are in good shape.
My Canon EOS 10D with minor damage. Things just melted.. burned..I found my wife's wedding ring melted into her laptop as she takes it off every night before going to bed.  This camera was bought used for about $400.  It's useless now.
Memory cards were about the only thing that surly did survive and they ALL did. CF and SD cards can be submerged and subjected to all sorts of stuff before they are damaged. Static electricity is there biggest danger. The transformer exploded for our housing area when my wife and I were just out of the fire. I assume that's because the breaker box melted and shorted the main lines which are not fused (before the meter).
My hand went through several phases.. 2nd degree burns mean pain and loosing skin.. but it got better fast and burn cream helped. I recovered well and was very lucky to not have inhaled this fire because it was about 5x hotter then a camp fire or normal open flame. This was superheated air and a superheated fireball that hit me. Like putting your finger through a candle.. exposure to open flames wont' hurt you usually for the short time it took this damage to happen (about 1/4 a sec.) however.. in house fires temperatures of the fire can get hot enough to melt steal and do instant damage. The door knob was not hot and we saw no fire out the kitchen window.. my first thought was the only door to the house not blocked by fire. Had we waited longer.. or not had that other window that was upgraded.. we would not have made it through this.

I just bought this camera a few months ago.. the guy said "..your spending $200 bucks on an HD 1080p video camera.. you should get the protection plan.. what if you drop it.." I was headed for a ham fest and had I done that I would have not had the money to buy some of the stuff I now don't have so I wish I had gotten the $50 protection plan!!!! I don't drop cameras but this damage was unavoidable.
The Canon EOS XTI.. I removed all the memory cards and those camera's last pictures are on them. It hurts so much to look at what we lost.. I switched operating systems to Linux Ubuntu 9.0 and leave now my windows partition to itself. Thanks to my mom I will have recovery disks for windows but since playing with Linux.. I like it allot. It's faster.. it does allot of things I thought it would not.. and it's got many advantages I can't count them all. However.. you need to know more then the average about computers before you can even try it which makes it hard and I'm not really sure how secure it really is.. all I know is what Ive read. These cameras were a total loss. As I say.. maybe some collector somewhere will want them on Ebay if I can get them back from my friends house.  We lost everything we owned in that fire, and got NO MONEY or any payback in insurance for what we lost. It was wrong and crazy.  Our neighbors got all the money and everything replaced.

A 2m radio that was left hanging on the antenna tuner that burned and a Yeasu ft50r that my friend Keith (K7RKH) gave me. It was a total loss to say the least.. and the other rig basically melted. There's not much left after a house fire and just about everything burns or melts.
The aluminum tuner this was hanging on actually melted down on each side so this radio got HOT! It was an inexpensive radio.. the most expensive losses were my cameras and Oscilloscopes as well as huge collection of electronic parts and tools.. only a few vacuum tubes were recovered. Nothing else remains and the rest I was planning to get was demolished before I had the chance. I will be upset at that for longer then I want to be.

My so called "submerge-able" GPS.  Batteries inside were probably what totaled it. Rust and heat may be the main reason why it does not work. Having a GPS for me is very important. I mark way points at bus stops, places I need to go.. and places I want to go. It is one of my most used tools especially for someone who has to get around on the bus and transit.. I need a new one..I just don't know when I will be able to afford even the cheapest model.

It's hard to believe that Spencer found a working microcomputer tape right here in this moonscape that was once my home. So much was lost.. it even hurts to think of the spiders and stuff that died because of this. The plants we had.. the life we had. This is not how I wanted to move to Portland.

Alina and I and my VX-7 surviving radio.. it's even got HF AM so I can listen to shortwave stations. I have been meaning to write an article on apartment antennas. One trick really works well.. even if you don't have a land line phone connected.. try plugging in a phone cord and wrapping it around your shortwave radio. You just might find that you have "cable" for your shortwave radio without all the fuss of making loop antennas and long wires to hide.

The YEASU VX7R. An all around amazing radio with endless features and abilities. I grabbed it simply because we could not find the phone and I figured that I may have to call this in directly. I can talk on police frequencies if there is a life and death emergency and that's exactly what I was planning on doing.. the house burred for at least an hour or two before anyone dialed 911. It was late at night.. but still.. people don't notice. When I first got out the window only then did the ambulance pull up.
My hand healing greatly.. it's now nearly totally healed but a bit sore if I put it in the sun. No more creams needed.

Leaving The Dalles.. I tried to say goodbye to everyone on the simplex freq. and local UHF repeater but it was down (443.35).. so I could not get a hold of anyone to say goodbye and left in a hurry with only what we could fit in a 4 door small car. Our microwave and well as many other items and my recovered items are still with friends and we don't know if or when we will be able to get them back. That's ok.. things happened so fast we are both still in shock to some degree. It will take time for things to heal. Thank God my wife's voice is coming back finally. I was so worried about her. I only cried once when we were in the hospital when I got scared that my wife might not make it.. she was coughing so bad it was so hard for me to hear. However.. we are doing allot better and moving on with our lives. On 9/11/2009 I have been 5 years clean and sober. Thank God we have our lives, thank God for our friends.. and the heros who helped us. God bless everyone who helped us, prayed for us.. and gave us things. A special thanks goes to the Red cross as well for there help financially and in getting refills for my meds. It's very difficult to move for me because I have to find new doctors and that takes time. A special thanks goes to my mom, step dad and aunt Karolyn for there quick action in helping us when they did not have too. Going out of there way.. and Spence and Jen for there hospitality and driving us to all our important appointments and places to go. We have many people to thank for this.. and there has been many heros in this. We wish we could have talked to thew news paper and told our story but they did what they did. It was not entirely accurate.. that's the press for you. And a big thanks goes to Ed for helping me get my wife out of course.. there are allot of heros out there, some people who don't even know they are until the time comes. Events like this are a true test of characteristic as well as many lessons.. our harts go out to other people who have lost there loved one's and possessions in fire and disasters that continue to plague the area. I only wish we had lots of money to spread around.. if we won the lotto I think we'd just give most of it away to friends, heros, and family.

I WILL continue to update this site and add pictures of spiders. I don't know when I will get my pro-rig back.. but in the mean time I will use my skills scavenging and building my own lenses/working with compact cameras to make the most of my 10mp S1500 and the 3.2mp HP733 digital camera I bought for 15bucks at Goodwill. It's got some old school features you can't find anymore on compacts and it takes good pictures. This is just the beginning of my photographic life, I don't give in, give up.. or let self pity or guilt bring me down. Both are just as useless. We got lucky to have what we do and the help we got and to survive. That is what matters the most.. time and good planning will take care of the rest. I've got more pictures and new macro pictures that will be posted when possible. Thanks be to everyone involved for any help given.

"Patients is worth more now then all the money I will ever have in my entire life.."
Gabe W Beasley --8/2009


Anonymous said...

hi! the second picture of the burned hand- I burned part of my stomach pretty badly and it looks a lot like that. I was wondering how long it took for that to heal. and did you have any scars?

Please email me at

thanks so much

Gabe W. Beasley said...


Thanks for checking out my site. I also am glad you alerted me, there was some older junk in here that I had no idea I still had posted. All the old articles on here are still posted. One guy told me right after you wrote in that I should be able to "afford a wheelchair" and that it was my "priorities" that were off after the fire! That makes no sense! How can people be so sick, stupid! We lost everything in that fire! Priorities had nothing to do with it. It took me 2 years to save for a laptop and new camera gear. I don't know if you read that one or not but it was very rude.

I think those burns hurt more then the fire ever did. Yeah it looks terrible, but I'm quick to heal. Sorry to hear about your burns. They are not fun. My 1st and 2nd degree burns (a few 3rd) were on my face, arm and hand. They healed in just a couple of months. Today, I would never have guessed it happened. No visible scars, and no sign of it ever even happening. I have been burned (less) before and healed up fast. I also used lots of cream my wife was nice to help me remember to use and put over it. We got tons of it from the hospital. For over the counter Neosporin+pain works best. Anyway-- thanks for writing to me, I remind me to take down the "wishlist". I got a few donations from some people that helped. By far, the scars that last longest in a fire like this are the ones of self doubt and loss of personal items. Those things that are impossible to replace. They always say "you can always get another one" with a lot of things--that is not
true. I try to be non-attached, but loosing my house to a fire was a nightmare I would not wish on my worst enemy. Thanks for writing in and I hope you get better soon.

Mostly Macros photography