britt watches her house burn down

When I was 8 or 9 years old I woke up in the middle of the night from a bad dream. I don’t know what intuitive force led me out of my bunk-bed and out onto the deck in the dead of night, but the feeling was strong so I went with it.

I grew up in Tacoma, Washington on a beautiful piece of land called Day Island. The deck behind the house overlooked the Puget Sound, Narrows Bridge and the Narrows Marina. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

When I walked outside that night, I saw the marina up in flames. I ran into my parents’ room screaming bloody murder and they called 9-1-1. Emergency vehicles were on the scene in what felt like seconds–but even as the firefighters tended to every charred dock and boathouse, I couldn’t sleep for fear the fire would start up again. My dad had to walk me down to the marina after the fire was put out to show me that no one was hurt and that the fire had stopped. When we approached the marina’s entrance, a sunken yacht had just been pulled up to shore. The boat was black and melted and pieces of wood jutted out at odd angles. In the eerie glow of the docklights that night, I believed it to be the spookiest, most unsettling thing I had ever laid eyes on. It was something from nightmares.

Although I gained some calm from knowing that the fire was stopped, the image of that dead ship has been seared into my brain. It haunted me night after night and I still think of it sometimes now.

That was the most frightening moment of my childhood. That, and the time when I let my brother out of my sight for a second at the park when I was supposed be watching him and my mom freaked out. (As she should have.)

But the most frightening moment of my adult life happened this past Friday, when the house my brother and I live in in North Portland burned down.

That night I had performed in a show at Theatre Vertigo and was exhausted from a fun and sleepless week in Los Angeles. I could not wait to get home and get to sleep. But before that sleep I made a pit-stop at a neighborhood bar with my dear friend Suzzane, as we had important life things to discuss (per usual). On the drive back to my house at around midnight, I saw that the street I lived on was blocked off by police cars and there were four firetrucks in front of my house. And my home was in flames.

Everything in my vision seemed to change color and any movement I witnessed seemed to happen in slow motion. The most frightening moment of my life to date was the two minutes in which I could not locate my brother, Nate. I didn’t know if he was in that house.

In those two minutes, I was somehow able to park my car at a curb and not in the middle of street (I don’t even remember doing that) and ran through the mob of college kids, firemen, police officers, university public safety personnel, and onlookers trying to find my brother. I remember shouting his name and running around and having this horrible panic in my chest for what seemed like an eternity. One of brother’s friends saw me and rushed me over to Nate who was, understandably, very upset. But that was the best feeling– locating him, hugging him. I could give a shit less about that house and the possessions inside it at that point.

Now, here are the facts that are important to this story: No one was hurt (THANK GOD). No one was home (of my four boy roommates, two were out of town and two were out at a party a couple blocks down). The fire started in the backyard and at the time of investigation that night, the investigator suspected an electrical issue to be the cause, but did not rule out arson. At the time of me writing this post, the event is still being investigated and we still don’t know who or what caused the fire. Our neighbors called 911 when they saw what they first believed to be a bonfire gone awry. Firefighters put out the fire within 3 minutes. The upstairs was completely wrecked. My brother’s room was almost completely destroyed. He lost nearly everything he owns, including his guitars and musical equipment, which are very important to him. I was lucky enough to lose nothing as the fire did not make it to the basement. The bottom level of the house had only minimal smoke damage. But I wish I had been the one to lose my crap. We had no renters insurance. Witnessing my brother’s loss absolutely kills me.

The most frightening part of this story, however, is thinking about how horrifyingly different this whole situation could have been if occurred just one hour later. Or if I had come home that night after the show and gone straight to bed instead of going out for a drink with Suzzane. If Nate had passed out in his bed when that fire hit, or if I was in my closet-room (which I know fully realize to be a fire trap… my poor parents!) when it happened, we could have been hurt or killed. Neither of us would have had an easy way out of that situation.

But I don’t want to dwell on the what-if’s anymore, I’ve already nearly driven myself insane by doing that. I would like to share some documentation of the event, though. Seeing these images scare me, but they also offer power and closure in knowing that the event is over.

So– welcome to our world this past weekend:

my brother's room

my brother’s room

more damage.

more damage.

what was left of the upstairs bathroom.

what was left of the upstairs bathroom.

shower melting into the wall.

shower melting into the wall.

scary stuff. :(

scary stuff. 😦

this gives me shivers.

this gives me shivers.

my poor brother's favorite guitar. :(

my poor brother’s favorite guitar. 😦

Okay, so that’s over and done with! We survived. All is well. Nate and I are alive and happy and temporarily homeless.

My Past Couple Weeks:

Before the real-life nightmare and subsequent uprooting, three big things happened in my professional life since my last post that I would like to report (because that is what I do on this blog):

1.) I spent four days in Los Angeles with my Dani girl in preparation for my big move:

LAX

twins

2.) I opened a show at Theatre Vertigo called “Aloha Say The Pretty Girls”:

These are our opening night faces at front of house.

These are our opening night faces at front of house.

This is my opening night face on stage, apparently. (Photo by Gary Norman)

This is my opening night face on stage, apparently. (Photo by Gary Norman)

This is my opening night face in the dressing room.

This is my opening night face in the dressing room.

3.) I had a rad callback. Remember that film audition in Seattle I had a few weeks back? I got the callback! So I made that beloved PDX to Seattle/Seattle back to PDX trek once again.

YAY 6 hours of DRIVING!

YAY 6 hours of DRIVING!

I was super jazzed about this opportunity because the film stars Kiera Knightley and Sam Rockwell! These are the big leagues, guys. It was definitely worth the drive and I learned a lot from the audition. Like the fact that I can memorize completely new (8-or-so-page) sides in ten minutes when the appropriate pressure is applied. Gotta love that shit.

So yeah– those things happened!

So, while in the midst of one of the scariest events of my life, I have learned a lot of beautiful lessons and have achieved a renewed sense of gratitude. I am lucky to be an alive and functional human being. I am lucky to do what I love for a living (for the most part). I am lucky to have my parents and my brother. I learned the true meaning of “the show must go on” after I reeealllyy didn’t feel like I had it in me to run a show the day after my house burned down with 2 hours of sleep, tapped-out adrenaline, and heightened nerves. I re-realized how lucky I am to have the best friends in the entire universe.

Which reminds me. Miss Elizabeth Evans (and her other half, Mr. Shane Winters) is the most amazing human in existence.

Shane and Liz. My heroes.

Shane and Liz. My heroes.

Liz has been one of the most important people in my life since 10th grade and she was a guardian angel for me and Nate during this whole ordeal. Not only did she and Shane show up on the scene after I called her at 1:30am as a sloppy weepy mess, but she helped me and my brother move items out of the house LATE that night, EARLY the next morning, and gave me and Nate and Nate’s friend from out-of-town couches to sleep on that night. She also set up free on-campus housing at The University of Portland for my brother and his roommates until they get back on their feet. Now THAT is family. She gave it no thought, she just acted. And now Liz has offered me her home to stay in until I move to Los Angeles.

Jesus, Liz!! MOST AMAZING PERSON OF THE YEAR AWARD. Truly, she is family.

Family.

Family is the best. The morning after the fire, our parents drove down to help. I’m sure we gave the both of them near heart-attacks with that phone-call. The four of us went through the house to salvage what we could. At this point Nate and I were a little giddy to be (almost) on the other side of such a stressful ordeal. To commemorate this accomplishment of survival and pure luck, I took these photos of my brother with this grotesque backdrop:

my very alive brother

my very alive brother

...in his very dead room.

…in his very dead room.

In all seriousness, I know I could have been in a lot of trouble in my basement closet room if I was there that night, and I could not be more thankful for the safety of my brother and all those boys who lived at the house.

So this is me signing off and reminding all of you to check your smoke alarms and fire escape routes. Seriously!! Please! I will give you a big hug as a reward. Come and claim it, ’cause I am all about the hugs right now.

Love to you my friends,

~britt

16 thoughts on “britt watches her house burn down

    • Lauren… you ANGEL… are you for real? I think that would make my brother’s life. You have no idea. Wow WOW. At the very least he could hang on to it for you until he can save up to by a new one? Thank god for you. You are amazing!!

      ❀ ❀

      ~b

  1. Britt, Such sadness, but joy that you and your brother and friends are OK. Also happiness for your audition. We are coming to the show on Sat. Hugs all Around.

    Love Mooch

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    • Thanks so much, Sarah. We are so lucky!! Ugh. Just glad we’re on the other side of it.

      And hell YES, Washingtonians UNITE! I always love a fellow WA girl. πŸ˜‰

      Much love to you!

      ~B

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