Your are probably wondering what the heck happened to me over the past few weeks…after all it’s really only a 2-3 day trip to Colorado. Well here is our “Move to Colorado Story”…
Well, our journey began on Saturday, March 5th. We made it past some stormy wet weather and avoided the snowfall in the Sierras by Saturday evening. We even made it to Winnemucca, Nevada by Saturday night. This was pretty good since we had a loaded 26′ Penske truck pulling a car trailer, a 1984 Itasca motorhome and our Suburban. Also 2 toddlers plus 4 adults. My husband Galen was pulling the Penske, Charles his brother was driving the motorhome and Aimee and I were switching off driving the Suburban.
We left Winnemucca about 10 AM and drove as fast as the Penske would allow, about 55mph, average. This was hard to accept when we were passing signs like this:
After lunch and potty breaks for the kids, we took about a 5-1/2 hour drive and turned it into 8 hours arriving in Salt Lake City, UT about 6:30pm. Lucky for us we found a Cracker Barrel to eat at! 🙂
Here’s a picture that Aimee took, love this.
We bought a couple of cute toy souvenirs for the kids, a plastic wind up robot for Wyatt, a cute light up Joy with candy (from the Inside Out movie) and a giant plastic egg (with toys & stickers inside for later!) We enjoyed our HUGE dinner and felt like pressing on for at least another hour and a half. The kids were doing great and the weather was just lightly snowing. We felt like it was safe enough to keep going and try to make it to Evanston, WY, which was about an hour an a half drive. We got back in the motorhome, Charles driving, me, and Sophia and Wyatt. Our dog Hunny, who is 14 years old wasn’t doing so good. She threw up a couple times so I was sitting on the floor petting her and just loving on her. The kids were happy in their car seats watching Wreck-It-Ralph.
About 25 minutes out of Salt Lake City, at around 8:30pm (in Parley’s Canyon) my sister in law, Aimee (who was driving our suburban behind us) got on the walkie talkie. She said “Guys, the motor home is smoking REAL bad, you gotta pull over”. I glanced at the side of the road and saw the snow accumulating. I thought, no way. We are on a hill, and a turn, and if we pull this rig off the highway, we might have to get a tow truck to get us out! I told her I didn’t think it was a good spot to pull over. Aimee came back, “No, you need to pull over NOW”. Her voice said it all. I yelled over the roar of the motorhome to Charles, my brother in law, “Charles pull over!”. He said, “Here?? Are you sure”, “YES! Pull over!”. We got off the road and cut the engine. Immediately we smelled the smoke and opened the windows. It was so strong, I said let’s get the kids out. I grabbed my almost 4-year old Wyatt as he dropped his new robot, “My ROBOT!” he exclaimed, I bent down to retrieve his precious robot, and headed out to make about a 40 foot trek to where Aimee parked the Suburban in front of us. The snow soaked my Uggs and the cold was creeping into my skin. I was focused on getting my kids to safety, that’s all that mattered. I put him in the back seat (no carseat) and ran back to get Sophie out. As I got to the door of the motorhome I heard someone yell out “Get away, it’s on fire!”. I looked to where I heard the voice, it was Charles, about 30 feet away towards the embankment holding Sophie in his arms. I sighed relief, my babies were safe. I screamed for our dog Hunny, “Hunny!!” Charles yelled back, “I’ve got her! Come here! It’s on FIRE!”
I was shocked. Could this really be happening? My ex-firefighter days kicked in and I thought, I could probably put it out. First I need important stuff…my purse! My phone is in there and my driver license, other super important papers, cards from family…I went in through a lot of smoke. I instantly thought of the Kindle which was playing the kids movie…I thought of our DSLR Nikon camera, our video camera, but I couldn’t grab it all. I kept thinking “just get OUT”. The whole thing could blow (just like in the movies, right?) and my kids would be motherless. I grabbed my purse from the floor where I was sitting and snatched up the fire extinguisher on my way out the door. As I headed to where Charles, Sophia and Hunny were I looked at the extinguisher. There was no pin! I guess we forgot to inspect that prior to this. I wasn’t sure how to work it without a pin. I just remembered PASS from fire fighting training. Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep, but there was no “pull”! I chucked the extinguisher somewhere in the snow, took Sophie from Charles and turned around to see a small fire under the motorhome. Oh no. This was really happening. Charles said we need to call 911, or I did…I can’t really remember. The adrenaline kicked in and we hurried back to the suburban. This time Aimee was outside of it and I yelled to her, “call 911!!”. She was like “what?”, so I repeated “call 911! The motorhome is on FIRE!”. It was then I realized my cell phone was left on the floor of the motorhome.
I hopped in the car with the kids and hugged them close. By then Galen walked the 1/4 mile back to where we were after pulling the Penske truck off to the side of the road. He asked “is everyone ok?” Yes. Yes we were. I kept repeating we’re ok. We’re all ok. Wyatt wanted to get out and he said he had to go potty but I told him it wasn’t safe. We had to stay in the car because this was an emergency. I was hoping and praying it wasn’t that bad. As Aimee gave the 911 operator our location and told them our motorhome was on fire, reality was beginning to set in. I was hoping first responders would get there fast.
We sat in the suburban waiting. While comforting the kids, I looked behind me and saw this…
It didn’t take long and our poor old 1984 Itasca motorhome that my dad gave us, who purchased it from Lou Drake (an old family friend and neighbor), was fully engulfed in flames. I told my son, “look Wyatt, our motorhome is on fire, it’s an emergency”. He wasn’t sad, none of us were, yet.
By this time onlookers had stopped to check on us. Some took pictures and some took videos. Really people? I guess it is “awesome” to see a 22′ motorhome on fire? Well, I didn’t think so. We were actually worried for those individuals that stopped to check on us. Some people parked eerily close to the motorhome. We were afraid it would blow. I completely forgot about the propane tank. Galen and Charles yelled from outside the suburban, “Get back, we’re all ok! Get away!”, hoping they would see we were all ok and get back in their vehicles. It took about 15 minutes I think for the fire fighters to get there. They put out the fire while we waited in the car.
Galen and Charles checked with the state trooper and gave him our info. They said they would call a wrecker to take it to a place back in Salt Lake City. The trooper told him they could go through the wreckage here or back at the yard to see if there was anything we could salvage. The guys decided to stay and go through the wreckage instead of losing time driving. Aimee and I took the kids in the car sans car seats since they were in the fire. I buckled Wyatt next to me and held Sophia, buckled on my lap. We drove to the nearest town, Park City and found a Hampton Inn. Aimee explained what happened and that we needed a room, we just lost our motorhome in a fire. They said they didn’t allow pets and Aimee broke down in tears. Are you kidding me? We just lost a TON of our personal effects and property and had no clothes, nothing and you’re turning us away? I won’t ever stay at a Hampton again.
Luckily there was a Best Western across the street that allowed pets and even better they had a cooler full of beverages and beer next to check-in. Boy did Aimee and I need a cold one. $2 each, nice. As Aimee got us checked in, the kids found a fountain surrounded by little rocks, like an indoor rock garden. Thankfully they were mesmerized, because I felt out of it. My head swirled with things that we needed at the store. What were we going to do now? We had no car seats, no clothes, no plan and another 8-10 hours to go to get to Colorado Springs.
We got to our room and Aimee was making a list of things and ready to go to a 24-hour Wal-Mart nearby. She was amazingly composed and I just felt fuzzy, and not from the beer. She left with a list of all the kid stuff we would need.
I didn’t know what to do with myself or the kids but wanted some normalcy. I know, a bath for them would help relax them. After the bath I wrapped them up in blankets with a makeshift towel for Sophie as a diaper. Soon after, Aimee got back with sippy cups, milk, snacks, diapers, wipes, clothes, deodorant, dog food for Hunny and baby blankets. She was so sweet to think of their blankets. I was saddened because they lost their favorite, soft baby blankets. I was going to save them as keepsakes.
The guys got back at about midnight. They told us they grabbed what suitcases were left, even though they were charred. They were able to get our fire safe out which was stuck in the shower, under water no less, but Galen pulled it out. Everything was in tact inside of it. (Side note: Get a fire safe – they work – fire and waterproof) I asked him about the car seats…melted. The Kindle Fire? Gone. What about our clothes? The camera, the other stuff. Most of it was damaged or melted. Smoke damage, water damage. The toys? We had most of the kids favorite toys. Melted. I was thankful I grabbed Wyatt’s robot on the way out, it was his only toy left. (of course we had more in the moving truck but his favorites that he would ask about were gone). Galen handed me my make-up bag which he thought was his overnight bag. It was charred. I opened it up to find all my make-up brushes melted and everything charred and smoky. I kept about 4 things and threw the bag outside our room. The smell was so smoky and had a sour chemical smell.
We stayed up talking about what we would do. It was about 3 AM and we decided to buy flights for Aimee, myself and the kids, leaving at 1PM. The guys would take the moving truck and the suburban and drive the rest of the way. We would get a shuttle in the morning at 1oAM and head to SLC airport so the guys wouldn’t have to backtrack.
It was 3:30 AM as Galen and I laid in bed going over all of the things we lost but so, so thankful that we were all SAFE. No one was hurt and we had our family, the most important thing ever.
We decided to call our other family in the morning, no sense in worrying everyone late at night and waking them up.
Somehow we were able to sleep. We set the alarm for 8AM so we could get everything together and get down to breakfast. In the morning Galen made some phone calls to family. He spoke with my Dad and his Dad. We got a text from my mom later that said “I’m so sorry for what happened. My heart goes out to you all.” I lost it. I hadn’t cried, but that did me in. It hit me what happened and just how much we lost. Later I realized that my mom’s quilt she made for my daughter was in there. I packed it last because she had just finished it and sewed on the patch with a dedication to Sophia Colleen from Grandma Colleen. I was so saddened. My mom assured me she was working on making another. She sent us clothes and gift cards right away to get the kids some clothes. Grandma Pami in Colorado Springs also got us some clothes for Sophie since we lost almost all of her clothes. We’re thankful to all our family that has sent us gift cards and thoughtful gifts. Even Aimee’s mother in law sent us a sweet card and gift cards.
At the airport Aimee made some calls to friends about clothes for the kids and car seats. I was just taken aback by her thoughtfulness. I wasn’t thinking of any of that so I was grateful she was thinking! 😉 When we arrived to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in the Springs, Sophie had some clothes. Aimee had a huge bag of clothes and even a snow suit for Sophie and snow clothes & boots for Wyatt. She even gave me clothes and an awesome snow jacket! We are so thankful for our family that reached out to us. We lost most of our clothes in the fire. Here are some pictures from the damage. Surprisingly you can see my jewelry box in the far right picture, completely charred on the outside. However, all of my earrings, bracelets and necklaces inside were miraculously fine. I was so thankful because I had some very special bracelets that my mother gave me and earrings that my mother in law has given me over the years. My heart goes out to those that have lost a home to fire. I now know what that feels like. We lost a small home. We lost things, but they were just that, “things”. We have our dear family and we are forever grateful for that. We are also so thankful that we still had our home owner’s insurance which will cover most of our losses.
And here are a few more pictures of the shell of a motorhome which was left:
There was also an article and pictures in the Fox 13 news which we found later. Here is a link to that> I-80 Motorhome Fire
Galen did ask the fire fighters if they could determine the cause of the fire but was told at this point probably not. They feel that it was either the gas line or electrical.
On a happy note, here are my kiddos, safe at Grandma Pami’s and Papa’s, playing in the snow with their new snow clothes and me, sporting my new jacket from my sister in law. 🙂 Hugging our babies a little tighter each night.
5 thoughts on “On our way to Colorado…Fire & Perspective…”
What did start the fire?
I forgot to put that! I’ll update my story. It was either gas line or electrical. Well never know for sure.
Great story, horrible that you all had to go through that, and lose precious memories. …., but it just means you’ll have to make new ones. But your blog, put me there with you, say be write a book, I think u got a future
Thank you for your kind words!