That April night was more frigid than most in Bellingham. Diane was home alone with her two children. Her husband, Doug was working late.
James, her son, was restless. He wanted to play outside but the rain was coming down like blankets from the sky covering her yard in sheet after sheet of water. Her daughter Abigail was restless too. She wanted to build a fort to hide from the flood outside.
At the time, it seemed like a good idea.
James, Diane, and Abigail gathered up cushions and blankets. Together, they worked to strategically place each of the fort’s walls. One cushion leaned up against the sofa, while the other one leaned up against a chair. They formed a doorway to scurry in and out of and then topped the fort with a blanket.
It was the perfect hideaway but the room still felt frigid to Diane.
While the children played, she started a fire in the fireplace.
“This oughta warm things up,” she thought.
Diane left the room for a minute while the fire kicked into gear. She just remembered that she had marshmallows in the pantry. Tonight, her kids would have a full campout experience creating s’mores to enjoy inside the fort.
As she was gathering up the coat hangers to use as marshmallow roasters, she heard a cry for help. The smell of thick smoke entered her lungs and she knew something was wrong.
Diane rushed to the living room to find that James had tried adding another room to the fort while she was gone. He rested a corner of the blanket on the ledge of the fireplace and topped it with a book. It only took a few seconds for the fire to catch the paper and thin cloth.
While the children shrieked, Diane knew what she had to do. She asked her daughter to run for help and take James with her.
Diane ran for the fire extinguisher. She was a good mom who was always prepared. As she tugged on the fire extinguisher, she struggled. “Why isn’t it working?”
Knowing that time was of the essence, Diane started tossing items that were on fire out the window. She grabbed the cushions with her bare hands and threw them into the sheets of rain that were pouring down. She pulled off the blanket and threw it outside too. Anything that had a hint of a flame was going outside, into the rain.
When the fire trucks arrived, they went to work. In minutes, the fire was out.
Diane looked down and saw the burn marks. She wasn’t alone. As the paramedics packed her into the back of the ambulance, bandaging her hands and pumping her with pain medication she had only one thought, “Where will we live?”