“it will never happen to me”

I think most of our lives we read about tragedies and hard stuff and breathe a sigh of relief and think that it will never happen to us. It’s easy to think that we’re immune from those crazy events and yet, as I found out this weekend, bizarre things can happen to anyone.

Like a vehicle fire.

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Who would think that could ever happen, right?

And yet it happened to me. We were just going to the park, supposed to be going for a walk, and instead of walking we found ourselves at that park watching our van turn into a fireball.  I never thought that would be part of my story. But the thing is, when hard things happen, sometimes there is a lesson in there that can be shared that will help someone else if they ever (god forbid) find themselves in this spot. So these are the six things I NEED you to read and remember. Please.

one: Leave the hood alone. If you think your vehicle is on fire (or is smoking) do not open the hood. When I pulled over there was white smoke coming from my van and yet, ah the irony, the engine didn’t indicate overheating prior to it dying. So my brain was confused. I have since learned (and am so thankful) that opening the hood introduces oxygen to fire which seeks it out and it can cause horrific results.

two: Get out fast. My van went from smoking to being fully engulfed in ten minutes. Your stuff doesn’t matter. And from my facebook page post (here) many moms with kids in carseats mentioned seatbelt cutters. I cannot imagine the panic of getting kids out while belted in. Thankfully my kids got out a minute or two before the flames shot out of the engine. But friends, that is seconds in reality. So get out.

three: Get far away. The 911 Operator insisted I keep everyone 100 feet away from the van. And there’s a reason. Things explode. The tires exploded. The front windshield exploded and when it did a fireball rushed through the van (think Backdraft) shooting the back window out. And I had a 3/4 full tank of gas. And the fumes are highly highly toxic. So stay back.

four: Do not attempt to put the fire out. I learned this the hard way, but again, it was my mama bear’s instinct happening. When I got out I saw the fire under the van on the grass and attempted (who knows why) to put that part out with my foot. Well, that wasn’t an ordinary fire, it was probably gasoline or some other chemical and it burned through my shoe and melted my sock on the side of my foot. Obviously, my attempts did nothing. So learn from me – the stuff doesn’t matter – just get away with your kids.

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five: To those around – Help out. I couldn’t have done it without the random people who stepped in to help me. Because once I got my kids out and safe I had to keep everyone away from that van — the dispatcher made it clear that no one should be by and yet here we were in a public area and I had to fight to keep people away.  A sweet grandmother comforted my two little ones. Another lady, who became my friend, who knew first aid, came and bandaged my foot before I went to the ER.  Some men helped me keep people away. I didn’t feel alone. So when in doubt, help out. The person who is in crisis is in shock – know that – I was in total overdrive limping around oblivious to my shoe burnt to my foot.

six: Get your burns checked. Even if you think it’s small. My burn isn’t that big (thank goodness) but it is a deep partial thickness 2nd degree burn. The ER team cleaned it, dressed it, gave me pain meds, prescribed an antibiotic and set up another appointment for me. Burns get infected easily. So no matter what if you ever find yourself burned (not even with a car fire) and it blisters or gets something stuck on it – get seen. The Urgent Care wouldn’t even see me. So despite the deductible and copay I went to the ER. You know why? Burns are serious and my kids need a mom and I wasn’t messing around.

I am sure more will come to me in the days to come, but my goodness, if my sharing my experience saves one life, then I am grateful. All the stuff in the world doesn’t matter in those moments. It didn’t matter to me what people thought when I was yelling for them to stand back or that I hugged a woman I didn’t know and burst into tears or any of the stuff in the van — all the stuff we stress about it just stuff — because when we get thrown into situations where life is held in the balance then we see the real important.

Please share. Awareness changes lives.

Love to you all.

~Rachel

to read my perspective go here -> in the end…it’s just stuff.

ps. And I don’t know the cause. Many many many many people are asking what caused it. It is such a strange thing because I know that would be my initial question, but now I have this perspective of space because after something hard happens the cause doesn’t matter to the person involved – just regrouping, balance and processing. But, to answer many questions, the firefighters speculated there was an electrical failure and then a spark and that ignited some fluid within the engine.

 

20 Responses to ““it will never happen to me””

  1. April 30, 2017

    Rosi L Reply

    I am just glad you and your kids are okay. I hope you have auto insurance and can get another vehicle. Big hugs to you and your family💜 Be well.

  2. April 30, 2017

    Ahna Reply

    Thank you so much for this. These simple but potentially life-saving plans are important to learn BEFORE the crisis. My trusty Honda burned to the ground with no notice as my son and I were driving between errands one evening. I am still thankful for the man who waved me over, his mom driving behind him who gave a jacket to my young son and hugged away my tears, and the sanity the family offered during the entire ordeal. Then there was the police officer who sweetly drive us to a diner to meet up with our ride home. Good neighbors are a blessing, and the “stuff” doesn’t matter. So glad you and yours are all safe.

  3. April 30, 2017

    Shannon Stubbs Reply

    How scary! I’m glad it worked out alright. I’ve thought of what I’d do if this ever happened and it’s terrifying! With three little ones in car seats, I would have to be quick. Luckily now, two of them can unbuckle themselves and help get the youngest out. So glad you are all okay!

  4. April 30, 2017

    Angela Reply

    So thankful for The Lord’s protection over you and your children. Thank you for sharing your story. You may not know it or see it just yet but this will save someone’s life. Or the life of their child. God bless and we will be praying over your burn and for a speedy recovery!

  5. April 30, 2017

    Lisa G. Reply

    I am SO glad that you and your kids are okay, and I hope your foot heals soon! Thank you for all of your great advice!

  6. May 1, 2017

    Cynthia Reply

    Thank goodness you & your children are safe and for the most part unhurt. Things can be replaced, lives cannot! Thank you so much for sharing these valuable Life learned lessons from which we can all benefit. I pray and trust you and your children recover and regroup quickly from this trauma.

  7. May 1, 2017

    Beth Reply

    Thank you for sharing! Glad you and your children are okay.

  8. May 1, 2017

    Sara Reply

    I am so glad you are all safe! This happened to me when I was in kindergarten. I remember to this day the moment my mom stopped the car and said loudly, calmly, and clearly: “Girls, don’t ask questions. Get out of your carseats and out of the car NOW.” Her tone told us to do as she said, and my 8 year old sister and I did as we were told. When we got out, we saw the flames shooting out from under the hood of our old Volvo. So scary.

  9. May 1, 2017

    Sharon Reply

    So glad you’re safe! Praying you can get a new vehicle that fits your family’s needs. Praying that your foot heals quickly!

  10. May 1, 2017

    Laura Reply

    Glad to hear you are safe. This happened to my brother in law today, same day I read about you. He’s a mechanic and had no idea he was on fire, someone had to flag him down to tell him.

  11. May 1, 2017

    Amber Reply

    I am so thankful you and your kiddos are OK! I had a similar experience when taking my kids to the park one day in the middle of the summer a few years ago. I had van trouble and pulled over to the side of the highway and a sweet neighbor tried to come and help me. While she was waiting to turn off of the highway to help me a gentleman who had a medical problem rear ended her causing her to hit a motorcycle head on. In the blink of an eye two people who later both passed away came flying at my van. It was all I could do to get my kids out of the van and not to go into shock. Knowing ahead of time what to do in the case of an emergency is GOLD! I am so thankful you are OK

  12. May 1, 2017

    Kate Reply

    I’m so glad you and your kids are safe! Hugs to you and your family!!

  13. May 2, 2017

    Karen Larimore Reply

    There must be some way to check if your make and model of vehicle has a history of such fires. A recall might be needed.

  14. May 4, 2017

    Corrinna Reply

    So glad to hear you and your kids are okay! It happened to me too. I was driving along with my kids and dog, and my car died. I hopped out and saw billowing smoke, but was momentarily confused because nothing was coming from the hood. I looked down and the whole underneath of my car was in flames. Got my kids and the dog out, but we lost everything including all my work equipment. Apparently it was an electrical fire. It happened so fast. During the shock of it all, my brain was having a hard time processing that only 45 minutes passed from the time the car died, to the fire trucks coming and the police processing the scene, to getting a ride home and phoning my insurance claim in. Literally a blink of an eye in time. I stopped driving for almost a year because the anxiety was paralyzing. For the first few months, even hearing a car backfire would cause a panic attack. How are you dealing with the emotional aftermath?

  15. May 5, 2017

    Tonya Gatlin Reply

    So thankful you and your precious children are ok. Prayers for you going forward. Thank you for sharing and spreading awareness!

  16. May 6, 2017

    Maria Reply

    I feel you. We had a house fire two years ago that started on the roof. There are no smoke detectors on the roof. We went from having a peaceful evening to my teenage son running downstairs saying massive smoke was coming from the attic. Two minutes later fire alarms were blaring. Two minutes after that we could not see where we were going because of the smoke. Everyone managed to get out safe with seconds to spare before second floor collapsed. Nothing mattered – our family was safe, the rest was all stuff. It was a total loss. But we were all safe and could rebuild. This was one thing that “happened to other people” but happened to us. Out of the blue. And gave us a lot of perspective to what does matter and what does not matter in life. I am so glad you all are safe.

    • Oh Maria, I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing your story with me. I’m so glad your family was safe.

  17. May 11, 2017

    Pat Roby Reply

    Excellent advice! The few cars I’ve seen catch fire went up to full flames in seconds. One must not hesitate to get away.

  18. May 11, 2017

    Theresa Smith Reply

    I am so glad that you and your family got out safely. I pray for quick and thorough healing for your foot. Everything happens for a reason and maybe your reason was so that you would write this post and save someone else’s life. Add a seat belt cutter to each car and get out fast. Stuff means nothing at all.

    Thanks for spreading the word and many blessings.

  19. ALL THANKS TO THE ALMIGHTY FOR GETTING YOUR FAMILY OUT SAFELY. I PRAY YOUR FOOT HEALS FAST AND YOUR VAN REPLACED AMEN.

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