'It Will Never Happen To Me'

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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.

Who would think that could ever happen, right?

And yet it happened to me. My five kids and I 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.

1. 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. My eleven-year-old son, Caleb, got out of the van and yelled that he saw fire under the hood, and at that point it shifted from the van dying to our van on fire.

2. 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. My kids are from seven to sixteen, so when they heard me say, “get out now and get away fast” they knew I meant business. 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. That’s my van after. Nothin’ in there was worth going back for, and I’m so thankful my kids all were safe.

3. 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. No one should get close ever. And AGAIN nothing is worth retrieving and risking your life for. At one point a bystander, when the fire was only on the engine and hood, asked if I needed to get anything out and I told him, “sir, my kids are out... the rest is just stuff.” Moments after that was when the fireball rushed through the cabin of the van.

4. 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. Vehicle fires have extremely high temperatures and are very toxic as well. And obviously, my attempts did nothing.

5. 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.

6. 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 second 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. We teach our kids what to do in a house fire and practice that, but have we done the same for a vehicle? Is there a plan? Now I know just how important that is as well.

Awareness changes lives.

Love to you all.


To read my full story of the event go here ―> in the end...it’s just stuff.

P.S. 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.

This article originally appeared on Finding Joy here ―> it will never happen to me

Connect with Rachel on Facebook here ―> FindingJoyBlog