Wednesday, August 26, 2009


"We are alive and that's all that matters" is what I have been saying to everyone. Arround midnight on 8/20/2009 (if I recall right) my wife woke up to thinking she had left a burner on.   It was not.  It was what we can only call message from God (since she did not smell smoke and we would never have gotten out if she'd ignored the thought) My wife discovered that our entire back wall was on fire. We literally had less then 20sec or so to get out of the house. Thanks to the help of both the fire department and the best local neighbour ever.. we got myself and my wife out the window.   She was in the hospital for a day and a night with severe smoke inhalation.    I was also admited for minor somke inhilation that night night for 2nd and 3rd degree burns on my face and hands.  We are alive and
that's all that really matters.
However thank God I managed to grab my laptop and my VX-7 Yeasu handheld radio (6m/2m/220/440 TX), my laptop (complete with 3 hard drives, wedding photos, important pics.   As well as another bag which I thought was my main primary digital SLR camera bag but later realized that it was just a radio back with a V1000 UHF, Icom T8A and a high end scanner in it as well as battery chargers. That was good because everything, (I lator found that 6 hard drives out of about a dozen survived the fire and water dammage!) Destroyed was all those important momentos.. pictures and personal information/records.  My of my hard drives.. DVDs backup archives of pictures.. and about 20 grand in pro-camera equipment was basically vaporized.  Nothing except my big knife found under some stuff protected and my wife's wedding ring found melted into her laptop was worth recovering. And I will see no money to pay for any of it.   IF YOU DONT HAVE RENTERS INSURENCE OR PROPERTY INSURENCE GET IT NOW!  Thus I did not and wont get any money to repalce any of my gear, cameras or otherwize.

My mom and family has been fantatstic in helping us recover..from getting us a new apartment in Portland to funishing it for us for the most part.  Our family saved our lives here.  I can't tell someone what this feels like however.   To lose everything since the stuff your grandpa gave you when you were a kid.. and the pictures and negs.. my first most important passports and my GED.  DESTROYED.  Firesafe boxes are USELESS!  You have a much better shot at putting your vallubles in an amry surplus ammo box in the back of your fridge.  That was the safest place in the house.  It will take months if not years to have our lives back to some sense of normalcy.  The shock of looseing everything is not easy.   However if there is any hope to be found I find it and can follow the hope into the future useing the stepingstones made of minor miricles and generous acts.

And my mom did not do so well with this.. since her insurance (she's the owner and landlord) will not even pay the value of the house. We are terrified of legal situations but we are just very glad and blessed that everyone lived and nobody was seriously injured. I'd say my wife was the most injured one, she suffered severe smoke inhilation and still has trobble breathing as well as laryngitis. This was litterally waking up to a nightmare.

Sorry about spelling I was unable to find spellcheck on this computer.

What is even worse is that the neighbours house also caught fire due to the heat from my deck burning. No it was not the dry grass.. said the fire marshal Dan H. He was absolutely sure of that. They lost everything except there pickup as well and I have not been able to talk to them as my cellphone burned up in the fire with all my numbers. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.. there is a chance according to them that since I smoked it was my butt can.. but we can't be sure. This leaves a deep pit in my stomach and makes me sick. The feeling I would not wish on my worst enemy. There have been several other theories, but what is definitely sure is it was not my ham radio station or camera gear. The dry grass, blowing wind, heat.. and that deck all went into play that night to produce this fire. 

All naighbors on all sides of us smoked.
That about summs up the situation.  Our nighbors next door walked arround with ciggerettes in there mouths on both sides of the house..the back was an ally way. We may never fully know what happened.  Placeing blame however is not tops on my list here.  Accdience do happen and my yard was too dry.   I know I was being careful with my smokes.. but I quit that night and have not smoked since.  Whatever caused this fire..and it may actually have been the air conditioner or a spark from the naighbors right back where it started (where they smoke) is not nearly as important as the prevention I should have taken to avoid this situation or at least make it better.  However.. I refuse to live in self pitty or replaying what I did wrong and right over and over in my head.   It was an accident of some kind and I'm sure it involved smoking.  This was the 3rd ciggette related house fire this year in The Dalles.. a really small town.    And I was being careful.

We were asleep for 2 hours before we noticed and as The Dalles Chronical paper here said, we "narrowly escaped with our lives". Had someone died in this fire I'm not sure I could live with myself. I have not been able to talk to the nighbors who lost everything as well but were not injured.  And we are blessed it was not worse.   Very blessed.

Alina (my wife) and I made it out alive and you have to pause and realize, sometimes with a tear in your eye.. how important and amazing that is.  Despite all the stress.. from dealing with so much loss of personal items..the bills that can't be payed.  We survived and had help, I have a light I now can follow again to build back and get a new camera and better lenses and gear.  Even if it takes me a very long time.    Patients right now is worth more to me then all the money I ever have had or ever will have.   I've been lucky.   We had to find me doctors, my wife doctors.. get us established hear..figure out how to deal with the bills..and finally only now am I starting to get out of shock and back into thinking of things in a stable way.   That could take a while for both of us.(added/updated 10-32-2009)

The really good thing is, both the fire department and everyone else including our best friends Spencer and Jennifer Harmon have been very very helpful. The Red Cross helped us with a relief card to get some basic items. However, our money situation is devastated and we may not even be able to afford winter cloths for a while but things have a way of working out thanks to God.   Basically nothing survived the fire but there were some incredible finds.. all my pictures and the main copies of the pics on this website have been destroyed as hard drives melted and got soaked, the few CDs that seemed ok due to where they were are sometimes corrupted.   There's nothing left.   I was only able to recover the memory cards from my 4 digital SLR cameras.  Only 3 cards were recoverd.  The cameras were melted but the flash memory is fine and thus the cards not only are fine but still work great.   The memory cards I was able to recover out of my other digital cameras also survived but a couple of the doors were too melted to recover the card from.  I did not escape the fire with a single camera.  I only realized this when we got to the hospital.  

I simply did not even have the time to grab my wallet/keys/stungun beltpack bag/main and secondardy digital SLR bag even though they were right by the window ready to go!  Had I been awake when my wife alerted me to the fire and not out on sleeping meds (legal and prescribed)--I deffinately would have been able to save my cameras and wallet.   Damn that hurts.   What hurts more then anything is remembering my wife screaming.   I never want to hear that again..and I broke down crying for the first time in many years when I thought I really might lose her.   Terrible stuff.   Even though this fire may not have been my fault.. having my wife go through this nightmare is not something I would wish on anyone.   I have had a hard time dealing with that personally.   I know I must remember it was life or death situation and I had to consentraight on getting my wife out first.  By then..there was no going back.    Luckily, I was able to get my laptop but a problem caused it to crash just after the fire. So I am waiting for my dad who has been an incredible help to order CDs for me so I can recover the system. That was my fault I had to uninstall Linex to make space and I did not do it right.   UPDATE: I was able to re-instal LENEX and its GREAT! Also got the recovery disk.  Things are getting better and better very slowly.  Now as I proof-read and update these articles I should say..we were very lucky and I am humbled that God saved my wife and I as well as everyone else involved in the fire.. whatever caused it.

My mom has been extremely supportive and taken this very very well even though this was her house. I can't thank her enough for her help and understanding and to thank my step dad Jeff.  My aunt Kerolyn should be mentioned here as well.. witthout her help we would not have been able to move to Portland.   They have been great and worked tirelessly to try to find Alina and I a place in Washington county so that we can be closer to family and have more stuff to do. For now we are staying at our best friends apartment here in The Dalles.

The ham radio community has been very supportive as well and I want to thank them for that. There are so many people to thank. The fire department was great and did an incredible job stopping the fire from burning down any more homes despite radiant heat. My burns will heal with time and my wife is getting better every day.  We have each other and the love for eachother which has continuued to get us through this and it's aftermath.

I managed to get myself a great little camera with some of the Red Cross money and took some photos. As you can see there is not much left.. the door was here above the deck. I received these burns in literally less then 1/4th a second of contact to the superheated fire when I opened the door to go outside thinking it was safe. Dispute the fact that the doorknob was not hot enough to be alarmed.. a back draft flash-over effect hit me in the face and hands. Alina was in the hospital for one day and one night and had to return after symptoms got bad for a few hours.

My eyes could have been destroyed and I could have fried my lungs if I had inhaled quickly. I was very very lucky. I am just so glad my wife did not get any burns and was standing behind me and the dryer when the back-draft happened. The FIRE ALARMS DID NOT GO OFF until it was way DEADLY too late. Had my loving and amazing wife Alina not stayed awake worried about leaving a burner on for no real reason.. we would almost certainly both be dead. I had to open the window and rip out the screen to get out.

This was one of my main radios right next to me that fateful night in bed while I was sleeping.. Less then 8inches from my head.  The one I did Ham radio net check-ins to the emergency radio nets here in The Dalles on. Plastic burned, melted, and what was not burned was full of water. My Mp3 player was made of aluminium and melted. Many items I just can't find.. they were simply vaporized. Nothing is really worth saving unless somebody wants to buy stuff like this on Ebay. You never know.
Hard drives.. I had nearly a dozen of them full of pictures (master files) and they were all either burned or soaked with water and mud.  6 of these drives ACTUALLY SURVIVIED THIS!!!!  Incredible.  (update-10-23-2009)
Canon EOS10D pulled out of the $250 weather-resistant camera bag.
It looks old and broken.  All she needs is a bit of lens cleaner and a light coating of Armoral--back to new!  My Cannon Eos10D digital SLR. As you can see.. cameras did not survive much. I wonder how much I can get on ebay for this one now.. it's only slight superfiscial dammage:)

Other cameras.
My Nikon D40 and a $250 lens filled with watter and partially melted.
Our WII entertainment system. Incredibly, Nintendo has offered to replace it. We'll see, but thanks to phone calls made by my friend Spencer.. we might just get a new one from them. Our insurance however.. will pay for nothing when it comes to my camera gear and other stuff.  We got a new WII!  Thanks to Spencers call and the fact that we got a protection plan with it when we bought it.  I know.. it's an extra $50 or something.  IT's WORTH IT!  I used to never buy those things.. now if there's anyway to do so I will!  Most important.. CHECK OUT WHAT KIND OF INSURENCE YOU much..what does it cover..document what you own and keep those records at a friends house of safety deposit box.   (Photos of all your gear..jewels.etc)

Family heirlooms, pictures, school yearbooks, old radios.. and antiques all destroyed. We escaped from the window on the right with the window hanging off of it. My wife is going to be ok now.  I finally know that.. this is so important because I love her so much I can't put it into words and I can't even immagine life without her.  (Update-10-23-2009)

Another front view.. this is an unbelievable nightmare and we want to thank everyone who has helped us through this both emotionally and financially. I will be checking my email: when ever I can.  
FAMILY AND FRIENDS:  I'm really sorry if you just found out about this. I still have not called alot of people because I lost all the phone numbers I had in my cellphone. One of my best friends Jeff Damn does not even know yet and I still have family to call.   Just about everyone knows now.. we are doing well living in Portland.   I will be getting back into ham radio here soon but we have had allot of stressful stuff happen and things we have to take care of so down-time and time to process all this is important.   That's why I've not been talking much on ham radio.  I appologize to everyone for that.. I just don't want to sound bad and sometimes don't feel like talking.  Everyone needs time to cope after something like this.   I did get the QSO card from Kristin.. K7KWT..thanks for the great chat. And the e-mail from Steve..thank you for thinking of sending us a card.  It will take me a while before I feel like getting on the radio much.  It all depends on how I feel.   Once I know the bills are in order, my hard to get meds are in order, and we are working twards our goles to rebuild and recover.. I will feel like I'm getting my life back and be more social.  Both of us have had to cope with this and we are sorry if we forgot to call people or email.   It's just a mater of time.

Life feels like stepping onto miricle after miricle and kind act after kind act both from God and from are family and friends twards the light of our dreams no matter how distant it may seem.  One light at a time.  One dream at a time.
--G.Beasley 10-23-2009