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The Ashes: Now I Know

This was my home. There’s being told, over and over, that your home has been reduced to ashes, and then there’s knowing, really knowing, that it’s gone. See the black metal frame with bulbous ends at the bottom left?  That was my headboard in my bedroom. I bought it from Ikea when I moved into Brooklyn Heights in 1993. It made it all the way to Paradise. It’s still standing and so am I. I think I’ll salvage it and restore it.

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  • Leslie November 27, 2018, 7:43 AM


  • John Condon November 27, 2018, 7:50 AM

    ” That was my headboard in my bedroom. I bought it from Ikea when I moved into Brooklyn Heights in 1993. … I think I’ll salvage it and restore it.”

    I’m sure the memories attached to it are so thick you’ll need to “brush them away from your face”.

    I wonder what other treasures lie among those ashes.

  • Phil in Englewood November 27, 2018, 8:15 AM

    Wow. One picture brings home the incredible devastation. So very, very glad you got out.

  • Tom Hyland November 27, 2018, 8:21 AM

    Gerard, did you find the metal box containing your dad’s wedding ring?

  • Phillipa Crawford November 27, 2018, 9:24 AM

    I saw a short post that the local Home Depot has made sifters and is giving them away to residents who have lost their homes so that they may sift the ashes for valuables.

  • theduchessofkitty November 27, 2018, 10:10 AM

    Oh, dear… Frankly, I don’t know what to say…

  • Gordon Scott November 27, 2018, 11:22 AM

    If you do restore that headboard, you will undoubtedly have the world’s only restored IKEA headboard.

  • real American November 27, 2018, 12:11 PM

    I am so very sorry for your loss, all the more so as it’s intentional destruction to further Agenda 2030
    …and brought to you by: https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/capabilities/directed-energy/laser-weapon-systems.html

  • Kerry November 27, 2018, 12:14 PM

    That right there is a genuine gut check. I really wish you emotional strength and patience recovering from such a total loss of your property.

  • John the River November 27, 2018, 1:11 PM

    Well as a friend said to me in similar circumstances, “Well you certainly don’t do things by half. “

  • tr November 27, 2018, 1:42 PM

    “That was my headboard in my bedroom. I bought it from Ikea when I moved into Brooklyn Heights in 1993.”

    I would count that as a couple more moves than you have a right to expect for Ikea furnature.

  • ghostsniper November 27, 2018, 2:34 PM

    @real american, nice. They can station that stuff all along the US borders and then scuttle all the other outgoing military wastes. Only the finest from stolen money. Lockheed has that $1mil per instance rider for collateral damage, right?

    In the above picture, from a forensic engineering standpoint it seems like very little ash debris from the incineration of an entire house.

    Now, if that’s a basement and not a crawl space, it makes sense. But still, there should be some “chunks”. Perhaps some cleanup has already occurred?

    I’d tear the chimney down, clean up the bricks, and create a lovely little backyard firepit with them and I’d name it Phoenix.

  • J.J. & H November 27, 2018, 3:31 PM

    We are so deeply sorry for your loss of memories and home, but we know you are well aware of your many blessings to still be here among the living. We have no idea what it feels like (at this time) to lose every material comfort and need. May the Good Lord Bless and keep you and all of those who have lost so much to this fire.

  • Bad_Brad November 27, 2018, 7:59 PM

    People our age shouldn’t have to experience these events. So sorry for your loss. The Forrest is already recovering. So are you. Stay strong pal.

  • AbigailAdams November 27, 2018, 10:50 PM

    I’ve been checking in on the map of destroyed structures in Magalia, Paradise, Concow, and environs since the fire. I saw your house last week, brother G. but I didn’t want to mention it. But now that you have the pic, is that the garage shower stall that I’m looking at between the house (foundation) and the garage (foundation)? Neither Geoff C. nor I could figure out what that lone room was and it could be the shower.

    Fire is such a destructive force. Forever grateful to God Almighty that you understood how quickly it could overcome you and got out when you did. Glad you didn’t have to drive through that tunnel of fire.

  • Jaynie November 28, 2018, 4:26 AM

    A hard, hard shock to see that and think of what happened there. And yet, fantastic, in the awesome sense of that word, that nearby trees are still standing with their evergreen needles. Fire has its ways. I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Suburbanbanshee November 28, 2018, 5:50 AM

    Obviously this is optional, but you might want to send a photo to Ikea, along with the story. I am sure they would be happy to find out they designed and made something so durable. (Also, maybe they have parts.)

  • Celia Hayes November 28, 2018, 5:52 AM

    My parents were burnt out of their retirement home in 2003, in one of the enormous fires which swept Northern San Diego County. It was surreal, going through what was found among the ashes. (Volunteers from their church sifted the remains, and we had buckets of things to go through.) It was rather like an archaeological dig – finding odd bits of china, glass and metal. The tiny brass monkey that Dad had since college. A set of demitasse cups which had been wrapped in paper in a dresser drawer and only slightly scorched. Three Pyrex measuring cups, stacked together and melted that way. The brass corner pieces from a Victorian writing desk.

  • Foreal? November 28, 2018, 6:02 AM

    Oh, dear… Frankly, I don’t know what to say…”

    And yet……

  • Bill Lever November 28, 2018, 6:50 AM

    Gerard, my business in Bakersfield burned on October 7 this year. (I live in another building on the same property that did not burn.) The cause of the fire was the bathroom exhaust fan. As stupid as that. At 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning, while I was away camping. The fan slowly ignited the wood ceiling joists, then through the plywood top deck and then burst up into the wood trusses of the roof. Ironically, nothing on the floor level burned until the trusses all fell in and then, everything burned – machinery, inventory, a lifetime of examples of how and how not to do things. The office contained my most personal and sentimental items.

    Here is my point. Many well-intentioned friends will express their sympathy, but what is really more helpful is those who ask if you have a plan….or if God has a plan for you in this…. with the underlying intent of helping you develop and refine your plan. Sympathy focuses on the recent past, which cannot be changed. Your plan focuses on the future.

    Good luck with your plan. Mine is going to take years.

  • Lincoln Annie November 28, 2018, 7:24 AM

    “In the fire-shadowed room he spoke of Night,
    A Night with bricked-up windows, iron door
    That, barred, remained shut fast against all light.
    I listened, cheer-replete and laughter-sore
    And fresh from happy song.

    The doom came crashing hard against my dreams,
    Dead-star-like on my peace and on my heart;
    Dim jealous coal from far infernal seams
    Flung from the Void to snuff a moment’s spark.
    Like breath my youth was gone.

    Around us lay the meads and winding ways,
    And snug the little kitchen-room we shared,
    Sweet-scented with the ghosts of other days;
    But forfeit now with peril new declared,
    Thus was I home-bereft.

    The merry glimmer of my little fire,
    Bright-mirrored in the many-lettered gold,
    Was twisted sudden to the Night’s desire;
    And with the slant, unhidden tale it told,
    Ere I could know to cry to Darkness, “Hold!”
    It burned tomorrow into bitter cold,
    And naught to me was left.”

    The Summons C.Baillie ’03

  • Linda Fox November 28, 2018, 8:30 AM

    You might want to see if IKEA is interested in the process for an ad. It might help with the cost of restoring things.
    It’s tough, but you’ve got a good attitude. I lost nearly everything once – we had to sell just about everything we owned to get the money for a down payment on a smaller house in a new neighborhood. We had to sell our kids beds out from under them.
    We survived. I just kept saying “people before possessions”. I had my family. I was very rich in people.

  • Thomas November 28, 2018, 9:12 AM

    Looking at the picture does not convey all the smells and tactile sense of wrongness you must feel. Sorry for your loss. Do you plan to keep reporting from Paradise because there is a lot We elsewhere do not know?

  • tom November 28, 2018, 9:28 AM

    You were dead for a while, and lived on. Phoenix already visited as it were.

    All is lagniappe. Stuff can be replaced, or ignored as accessories to living, nice to have, but not missed when they are gone, misplaced, given away, or consumed by fire.

    Don’t ignore the past, which is all that is within the bounds of your foundation, but look forward to what will be, what can be. If I were 2000 miles closer, I’d try to give a helping hand.

  • Ankylus November 28, 2018, 9:37 AM

    You have my empathy, and my sympathy both. When I was 16, my family home flooded. A one story house with over 5′ of water in it. Destroyed everything.

    People do not understand what it is to see literally everything you own , and pretty much everything you ever have owned, completely destroyed. All the treasures and the memories they embodied. The emotional devastation is beyond words.

    But, as you say, you are still standing. You’re still ahead of the game. God bless you and grant you the strength you will need to recover. The fact you can make that post leads me to believe you already have it.

  • bud November 28, 2018, 1:34 PM

    If you decide to rebuild, it looks like the foundation is good. Everything in life takes a good foundation, and I think you have one, in every sense of the word.

    Thank you for your insights.

    FYI, in eastern Europe, due to the expense of lumber, much of their housing is built using concrete, lots of concrete. Ugly, but stucco can cover a multitude of sins. Tin roof (squeeze fiberglass insulation under it for noise) and external fires are much less of a problem.

    However you land, good luck.

  • Wendy K Laubach November 30, 2018, 6:03 AM

    We had a bad hurricane strike here last year. If I may pass on something that may be helpful, we found that the survival of trees was among the most important things. You can rebuild a house rather quickly if you have the cash or insurance, and be surprisingly content with the results. I can see that many of your area’s beautiful trees survived. In a year or so you’ll hardly know they were damaged. It’s hard to believe when you’re still looking at the wreckage, but it’s true. I have to look at pictures of the immediate aftermath of the storm, which looked post-nuclear, to remind myself how impossible a recovery seemed at the time.

  • Wendy K Laubach November 30, 2018, 6:05 AM

    PS, Also, the connection to your neighbors will be EVERYTHING.

  • LarryA November 30, 2018, 7:23 PM

    [it seems like very little ash debris from the incineration of an entire house]
    Wildfire moves with wind. Wind blows much of the ash away.