Guest post by Ralph Sly
Over the last year or so we have been discussing the unfortunate situation of a lady who lost her tiny house to fire. I have commented and debated on several blogs and sites about this particular subject with the intent of making sure others have adequate coverage in addition to discussing several ways of obtaining coverage. I want to share this little project with you.
I blow my own horn as to past employment negotiating insurances and benefits for companies checking things out to be properly documented and the benefits of doing so.
I recently purchased a little Winnebago Brave to be a temporary home while we do construction on my little building to include a 250’ suite for me and an outdoor patio café. I am used to purchasing insurance in Alberta where the perils are purchased separately, but in BC you purchase a package which is Collision, Glass, Fire and Theft. Liability is separate and you can plate a vehicle under just Liability. When the perils were explained I told the girl I do not need Collision, or Glass, I just want Liability. I did increase their minimum, and I wanted Fire and Theft. We were joking around, the seller and I with the girl, and apparently she explained I have to have the entire package, but went back and forth in the computer to see what she could do. In short, I signed off of the perils package, me thinking I had Liability, Fire, and Theft on it as did the two people who were with me. SO MUCH FOR ASSUMPTION, and Mr. Know-It-All walked out with just Liability, lots of it grant you, but no Fire and Theft.
This photo, pulled off of the net, is as close to what I started with as I could find. It’s a perfect size and well equipped for a year of living beside my building and possibly a weekend or so away.
Of course, those of you who have read any of my comments may know I have to modify everything I own, it wouldn’t be right to just accept what is working. A good friend (lady I know) told me I could put it at her place, we would clean it up inside a little more, add a couple of creature comforts, fix some lights, and other small details before I parked it at my place.
WOW, check out my totally super brain powered renovation of this unit. I managed to complete it in mere minutes; this is my adaptation of a full flow through Air Streamed unit.
This people, is the results of full blown stupidly. Without a fire extinguisher, something to smother fire with, performing a stunt I have done hundreds of times before, (only with all the safety precautions in place) “priming a carburetor with gasoline.” Hell, I have electric fuel pumps, easy to install in fuel lines to draw fuel from tanks. I was in a hurry to beat darkness and get this unit, which ran out of fuel, into a storage compound. Guess what? It could have waited overnight, no reason in the world to do this at that time. I have AMA and could have had it towed to a garage and looked at by someone with a brain. Afterthought is great but all of them point to me being stone stupid.
The rear end of this unit is on the edge of a 35’ sharp drop off going down to the main road, when the fire started, I jumped from the driver’s seat; hand on fire, looking at 5 digits which were now, rather cute candles. Trying to survey the situation and find something to smother the fire on the carb, of course much larger now with the addition of the rest of the paper cup of gas which was in my hand. I used my armpit to put my hand out and thank God that worked, there wasn’t a lot of time to figure this one out so just went with it.
Now, brain power kicked in, but not mine, I don’t have one. I think we can all agree with that. I had left a gallon of fuel on the doorway step and my lady friend immediately, when the fire started, calmly grabbed it and carried it far away from the fire. She then noticed the unit with me in it rolling toward the little cliff and calmly, but loudly said you are rolling backwards. I didn’t realize the unit was moving, but reached over the fire to put it in park and I’ll be darned, it took hold and stopped right on the edge of the drop off, but right beside my pickup.
I don’t know, I may have wanted to wait a few minutes to cook some hotdogs or something, but when the windshield blew out and the now raging fire blew at me while I was breathing in the fresh aroma of burning plastic I guess something must have said “hey stupid, there is nothing more you can damage so get the hell out.” I followed the fire out the open door, hit the ground, got up, and my friend then said, “Your pickup, the fire is going to get your pick up.” I managed to get into the pickup and drive it ahead and into a far away tree as I didn’t by this time have the strength to hit the brakes, I did manage to shut the engine off.
Now then, I have damaged lungs from a life of working around crap, and with the introduction of the plastic, I sat there fighting for breath and weighing the options, looking at my hand, I have to say, suffocation is a better way to die then to become a crispy critter or worse still, surviving a few days as a burn victim. God bless burn victims!
I watched my friend heading for her home telling me she was going to call the fire department. Good idea because her only way out was the mountain road I so gratefully had blocked with a burning RV and if the wind changed, that would have been an “Oh Damn” moment. I looked in the truck mirrors with my head on the headrest, kind of content that I would just suffocate (that was quite calming) and was spared the burning live cremation of the moments earlier and noticed the fire now large and spreading to the forest.
Here, I am going to get a little spooky on you. I lost a kid sister a few days before to cancer, we were very close and I have no idea where the thought came from, but it said you damn well better not quite on me there are relief meds in the cooler under your arm. Normally to find these I had to route through a bunch of garbage, but I just reached into the top, never open but it was now and the meds were on the top, dispenser clicked and ready to use. I just had to muster enough breath to suck them in and I did. These are good drugs so it didn’t take long before I could half-way breathe and do another puff. I seen the flames approaching my tailgate and started the truck, that tree must have been a small one because it wasn’t there now and I drove the truck ahead into my friends yard, far away from the inferno and was able to get out and bend over the hood to get some fresh air.
Oh, my, now for the good stuff, my calm and collective friend came to me, not quite as composed, half moist eyes and held me in such tender hugs, saying all the nice gushy thing a guy likes to hear. But first she called me a damn fool. She thought I was consumed by the flames when she saw the windshield blow. After thinking I was totally on fire she held me, kissing my face all over, and damn she was nice and checking me out for burns. I would have gladly stripped for her so she could check further, but foolishly told her I only burnt my hand and now it was sore. (It’s not like me to miss an opportunity, must be slipping in my old age, but she is a friend and I really didn’t want her to see all my shortcomings. To be honest, I really didn’t want to know if I was more burnt until the ambulance arrived. I had a few tingles.)
I came out of this with what could only be considered a sliver of a 2nd degree burnt thumb and a finger. I would probably would have more injuries if I had done the modifications intended, because I am not only a little stupid but also somewhat klutzy and not that unfamiliar with this ache. The lungs, they have me a little frightened because I have maintained a rather high level of success with them, but they are fragile.
OMG, no fire insurance, none of this is covered and the costs are ridiculous. Just getting rid of the wreckage is insane. I had to get guys to clear off all the wood soot. Thankfully it truly burnt so there was little wood to be concerned about. But there is road cleaning, towing, out of province Medicare, the total loss of the RV, the ambulance fee, fire truck costs, etc. I don’t want to ask any more questions; the bills will come one at a time. I learned AMA doesn’t cover towing because the RV is on private land going to scrap. I could probably argue that one but we will see.
At this writing it has been a week and the RV still sits on site. I can almost bet the cop who asks me if I had anything to gain by burning it will send me a bill. And why, because I left that damn office thinking not making sure I had Fire and Theft. You never even step inside a RV without Fire Insurance; there are too many propane components not to have it. Had that girl made it very clear, without the Collision and Glass I would not have the Fire and Theft I would have purchased the package. Am I blaming her? No way! Obviously she feels she did explain, of course she did, I signed off on the line stating just that and have years of mouthing off about read what you sign under my belt.
By the way, for anyone who thinks I am not grateful to be alive, rest assured I most defiantly am. I feel I had two guardian angels that evening, one on the ground advising me and one in the heavens. This is very costly and came at the most inopportune time in my life, but I have life to live and things have always worked out for me one way or the other. It is devastating and a huge set back in plans, but plans change so we will just alter them a bit. (whole lot)