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Our trip to South Dakota Goes Up in Flames

Up early and on the way to South Dakota via Clemmons to visit with our son and his family and celebrate his younger daughter’s first birthday but that was not to be. Almost 2 hours after we left we were traveling down a four lane highway (fortunately) when someone pulled up beside us constantly blowing the horn and pointing. Not knowing what was wrong we pulled over on an overpass, jumped out of the RV and then saw flames coming from the tow dolly and then the car. I grabbed a fire extinguisher and Jerry tried to put it out while I was trying to put it out with towels. Neither worked so we just stood there in horror watching it burn. A couple stopped, called 911 and cautioned us to stay away from the car and the motor home. Then a fireman from the Wendell NC fire department stopped and told us to remove the dolly from the RV. Jerry frantically searched the trunk, found a jack and the fireman actually jacked the dolly up enough so the motor home could be moved away from the flames thus saving the motor home and its contents.

After the motor home was moved
I have heard the words “goes up in flames” before but never quite pictured it like this as I watched my little Toyota burn up. The firemen arrived and it took a few minutes to get the fire out. Raising the hood of the car to wet down the motor proved to be very difficult and they finally had to pry it open. Jerry said there was one small bit of humor that day. Since all of the electronics burned they couldn’t get the doors open so the very kind fireman asked Jerry if it was OK to break the window. I understand why he asked but at that point what was a broken window?

I can’t say enough good things about the Efland Fire Department. They were efficient, courteous and caring realizing that we were probably in total shock. Interestingly enough neither Jerry nor I thought of calling 911 as we were so busy trying to extinguish the fire. Fortunately the first couple that stopped immediately did that.

What can I say?
After the fire was out and I could get closer to the car I noticed the burned tires and they was nothing but strings. Parts of the inside of the car were melted and my sunglasses were melted to the floor. We were able to get some things out of the car but they are heavily smoked damaged and I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to use them again. Regrettably we had put more than we usually do in the car. Because the slides were already pulled in Saturday morning the last minute items that were in the house were put in the car. Things like our king-sized comforter, three shams with pillows, Olivia’s birthday gifts, the special Easter cards with money for our three grands, Jerry’s camera case, camera and lens and MY PILLOW! Do you have that special pillow that you take everywhere? We had also put our heavy down coats in the trunk since we thought we’d possibly run into some cold weather in South Dakota. They take up a lot of closet space so we just stuck them in the trunk. We were able to retrieve those items but they absolutely reek. In fact, later at our granddaughter’s birthday party I put the camera up to take a picture and it smelled so strongly that I couldn’t even use it to find out if it would work.

With help from everyone we got the items that were in tact out of the car and then sadly watched my little car be towed away. I’ve had that car several years and if you know anything about Toyota’s you know they last a long time. I was hoping for another 150,000 miles. Buying another car was not in my plan or budget!

When we finally arrived in Clemmons we stopped at a grocery store and Jerry got some large garbage bags to put the retrieved items in to try to contain the odor until we got home. (Obviously our trip was canceled and we would be headed home after the week-end.) We checked into Tanglewood Park RV and quickly got the electricity hooked up so we could turn on the water heater as we both desperately needed showers. We had stopped at a Rest Stop afterward and I realized that not only did I smell like smoke my face and hands were covered with soot. It was a pretty pitiful sight! Luckily we have a washer and dryer in the coach so after our showers we immediately threw our smoky clothes in hoping that they would be smelling a lot better after a good washing.

David, our son, came out and picked us up and we spent the rest of the afternoon at his home and with his family. With difficulty we put on our smiling faces and tried to enjoy being with our family and celebrating Olivia’s first birthday.

I don’t sound very grateful do I but indeed I am. First of all to the Lord Jesus who saved our lives, to the people who blew the horn to get our attention, to the couple that immediately stopped to help, to the fireman from Wendell who probably saved our RV and to the fire departments that came to our rescue my words are so inadequate to express my gratitude. As I sit here with tears streaming down my face I realize that they are tears of thanksgiving, of sadness, of confusion, of being overwhelmed, of fear, or relief – yes, a jumble of emotions, some I can’t even express but again most of all to our Lord and Savior who not only kept us safe yesterday but whose resurrection we celebrate on this Easter Sunday as he died and rose again to give us eternal life.

You know – it’s just a car and it could have been oh so much worse. The thought of being on a two lane road and possibly no one to alert us to the fire has been so frightening. Had we not known it the fire could have crept up to the motor home and yes, we have an 80 gallon gas tank plus propane on board. That thought alone is enough to make us realize how very blessed we were. Like I said, it’s just a car. Hopefully our insurance will help with the purchase of another car and replacement of the contents. We’ll see. Although we’ve never had a claim before they will raise our rate and I doubt they think our things are as valuable as we do! It’s kind of a darned if you do and darned if you don’t! Oh well, the Lord put the necessary people in place when we needed them and we are safe and that is what is most important.

I am sure there will be people wondering what caused the fire. We really don’t know for sure but think it had something to do with the brakes on the tow dolly or the bearings on the dolly. After we got out of the RV we heard first the tow dolly tire pop and then the car tire pop so we know it was not a tire problem.

When we bought our first RV we didn’t have a car that would flat tow so we decided to tow with a dolly. Since we now have to buy another car we will be looking for one that can be flat towed but that’s a story for another day!