The Lopez House Fire of 2020

As many of us know, the last year and a half have definitely been difficult. Quarantining, social distancing, and masks have no doubt affected everyone in some way. However, it wasn’t pandemic living or the itchy fuzz from my mask on my face that changed my life drastically. It was the 35-year-old fireplace inside of my very own home.

On December 29, 2020, at around 3 a.m., my mom burst into my room telling me to get up. When I came to my senses, I could smell the smoke coming from downstairs and I could feel it entering my lungs. I grabbed my glasses and some shoes and went out into the hallway to where my dad was calling us. The wood that had been burning for 16 hours the day before because of a power outage caused the wood behind the fireplace to burn. Sometimes I like to blame the rain for causing our power to go out, making us keep it on for so long. But in reality, it was just a really old fireplace.

The fire place after being put out by firefighters.

 The Christmas items hanging on the mantel only fed the fire and smoke. It’s true what they teach you in fifth grade science: heat rises. I got down on my knees and crawled to my parents’ room where I would be escaping from. 

My family and I are insanely lucky that many years ago my dad found a fire escape ladder at a thrift store. He held onto it, just in case the unthinkable ever happened. It happened. 

A two-story house always felt like a dream, a blessing even. Not at this moment. Not when I was breaking the screen off the window trying to get fresh air because I was choking on smoke. Not when I could see my two little sisters and a younger cousin afraid for their lives as they crawled out the window before me. Not when I was terrified that my dad and I wouldn’t make it because we were the last ones to leave. 

You see, no one ever tells you that in a fire, the smoke is the first thing that gets you, not the heat or the flames. This traumatic experience has brought some of the most difficult times in my life, but the important thing is that my family and I are safe. The Lopez House Fire of 2020 became something that brought us closer, though we struggle daily. I miss my home every day, but I’m grateful for the person I’ve become because of this incident. Though each of us lost a few comfort items, the most important things to us like family pictures and silly childhood memories saved in the form of art were safe. After going through something like this together, materialistic items tend to not matter as much.

Surprisingly, we still haven’t moved back into our home. On the day of the fire, we spoke with our insurance company, and they paid for us to stay in a hotel for a month until we found a more stable solution. On February 5th, 2021, my family and I moved into an apartment in Ventura. Our insurance company has been paying for our stay there ever since, even though we were only supposed to stay for three to six months. For almost a year, I have anticipated them starting construction on home. For almost a year, I’ve longed for the normalcy of my old life. I will continue to wait and long, because my home is my home, and there’s nothing quite like it.