Young Eyes, Raging Fire, Sad Night

On one Christmas night when I was 5 years old living it Bakersfield, CA turned into a very sad and life time memory that is still in my memory very vividly. During the evening everything was normal. The stockings were hung up, the cookies for Santa were out for his midnight dash through my house. I was told to go to bed and as a good boy on a Christmas Eve normally does, I went straight there without complaint. Sometime later my parents went to bed too.

Sometime during the night I was wakened to the lights and sirens of firetrucks rushing by my house. Being my bedroom window faced the street those lights flashing into my room were bright. I got up and looked outside to see a fire-hose ran down the center of my street towards the top of the street. There was an eerie red glow of the firetrucks, maybe 3 or 4 of them. But the yellowish red glow of the fire across the street and over a house was brighter than the firetrucks’ lights.  Looking further up the street I could see the flames jumping over the top of the house next to the now fully engulfed family home. I watched as the firemen tried in vain to put the fire out.

By now my whole family were up and in the living room. I rushed in there also. We sat there in awe at what we were watching. Even at my tender age I knew this was a very horrible event. I don’t remember of any of us really talking but I could see the concern written all over my parents’ faces and my two older sisters. There was nothing that the firemen could do but protect the houses next door to the burning home.

The next morning the normal excitement of Christmas morning wasn’t there, even for the very young little boy who I was. We all kept looking outside the window just looking at the debris that the fire had left. There was a travel trailer out front that the night before held some family members that were visiting the family of the burned out house for Christmas. Then my father learned that the fire took the lives of 3 people, grandparents and a small boy of 3 years of age. This family didn’t just loss their home, but their grandparents and a baby boy.

Later during the weeks that pasted it was learned, or maybe rumored that the fire was started by a lite cigarette that someone dropped while they slept on the couch. The little boy was sleeping inside the house  with his grandmother while the grandfather was out in the travel trailer. When the fire was finally detected the everyone got out except for the grandmother and the little boy. That was when the grandfather ran in to save his wife, or as I remember hearing then he ran back in to die with his beloved wife. I truly wish I knew what was true here or not about him running in, but I don’t.

This night has forever stayed with me. It has made me truly know what my family are to me. That they can be here today and gone tomorrow and that we MUST make sure to always show them how much they mean to us. It has given me the most respect to the fire-personal and police the honor they deserve. On that night they ran to this home and fought with their all for people they didn’t even know. They did this on a night that I’m sure most would have much rather been in bed with their own families than to witness the deaths of these 3 family members.

Years later I was on a website discussing life events that changed the members of the board. I explained the details as I did here and found that one of the other board members remembered the horrible event. It was a man that at the time was a father of a little boy that lived in Taft, CA. While I was witness to this horrible fire and somber Christmas morning, had to learn that his little boy’s best friend had just died in that fire. He told me how his wife and him had the hardest time to tell his son that his friend would never return home. He said it told them a few days to have the courage to explain to his son what happened.

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