May 27, 2012

Fire update

Everyone who has heard about my parents' house fire last week seems to be clamoring for details, so here is an update.

My parents have excellent homeowners insurance and are well-covered for an event like this, but the restoration process is still staggering.  Two restoration companies (one provided by the insurance company and one called in by my parents) have assessed the damage and provided estimates called "the scope of work."  This covers reconstructing areas of the home damaged by fire, water and smoke, as well as restoring smoke-damaged personal belongings.  The contractors have taken measurements, crawled around the attic, and evaluated many things, both inside and outside the home.

Although the fire itself was contained to a fairly small area, it seems that smoke and water damage are extensive.  Both estimates call for completely reconstructing the three bedrooms upstairs, and possibly the ceilings in the rooms below them.  The insulation in the attic will be replaced.  Parts of the roof will be replaced.  The carpet will be thoroughly cleaned or completely replaced.  The entire inside (and part of the outside) of the house will be painted.  

Reconstruction is probably the least complicated part of the restoration.  Cleaning all of the belongings is a time-intensive, complicated process.  The insurance company will send people to photograph, inventory, and pack every single item in the house. Workers will account for every spool of thread, every can of food, every book, every shoe, every earring, every DVD, every instrument, every piece of electronic equipment--and everything else!  They will then take all of the belongings to a warehouse for assessment and special cleaning.  They will determine whether the expense of cleaning exceeds the value of the item, and either clean and return it or give a "replacement value" financial settlement.  They will keep items like electronics and the piano in climate-controlled storage until the house is ready to be occupied again.

At the moment, my parents are trying to decide which of the restoration contractors to use.  The bids didn't determine a clear-cut winner, so they are carefully weighing their options.  Once they choose a contractor, things like a timeline and details on permanent housing will emerge.  One contractor's reconstruction estimate was six to eight weeks. The other estimated four to six months.  Friends who have had restoration work done suggest adding a month or two to any estimate.  My mom says she'll be glad to be back her house by Christmas, which seems so far away!

Neil and Andrea Jones on my parents' street were kind enough to host us from the time of the fire until Friday afternoon.  They were so gracious and accommodating and made our stay so comfortable.  Ryan, my brother, had planned to move out of my parents' home in a few weeks, so he accelerated that effort and moved to his new apartment on Monday night.  After I left on Friday, Mom, Dad, and Holly moved to a Residence Inn (paid for by insurance), which they say is quite comfortable.  It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a living area, and a small kitchen.  They will stay there for a week, which should allow time to choose a contractor, develop a timeline, and find some long-term housing.  They are hoping for a vacation home close to their house so that they can monitor construction progress and maintain the yard through the hot summer.  

While I was in town, I was so moved by the outpouring of service and generosity towards my family.  Often it was the little details--like the pitcher of water Andrea provided in the fire's aftermath--that meant so much.  Colleen Shumway loaned me contact cleaning solution when my eyes were burning Sunday night and I couldn't get my own solution out of the house.  Mom is scheduled to attend stake girls camp on Tuesday and was talking to a friend about needing to borrow camping supplies.  She said, "I don't even have a pillow!" The next morning, four brand-new pillows and pillow cases showed up on the Jones's porch.  The McKay family provided dinner at their home twice, loaned blankets for saving seats at Holly's graduation, and washed laundry.  The Shumways fed us and washed laundry, too.  Eric, my brother, and his wife did literal mountains of our laundry, and Eric ironed an unbelievable number of shirts for Dad and Ryan.  Many people dropped off wonderful gifts for Holly, and Andrea decorated her room with graduation signs.  It was a big week for my little sister, and those things eased the upheaval.  I am probably forgetting some of the angels who helped us, but all of us were so grateful for their service.

My parents are amazing.  They have been unbelievably positive, happy, and cheerful.  In a very stressful, life-altering situation, they have been calm.  They have always said that life is not about the things you collect; it is about the people you love.  Over the last week, Mom and Dad have said many times that they have their family, and if they lost everything else, they'd be okay.  They are certainly acting on their beliefs and demonstrating great faith that things will all work out.  I feel so blessed by their incredible example.

On behalf of my family, I extend many thanks to those of you who are praying for the Dixons.  Thank you for your love and concern and support.  All is well.
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