Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fire Damage

To look at the front of the house, you really wouldn't know anything was wrong. Except for the smoke-enhanced cobwebs and the growing pile of trash, it looks like a complete house. Inside, it's a different story.

There are boxes holding things we might be able to save and other boxes marked "total loss." The smoke engulfed the house, so even things which were not scorched may be lost forever. The master bedroom and its bath are totally charred and empty. What was in them was thrown out into the back and side yards and we've been digging through the piles ever since, trying to assess the loss.

Art throughout the rest of the house is also damaged to a greater or lesser extent: we pulled some boxes out of Michael's room and discovered that the container sides which were against the wall of our bedroom were scorched. The were all covered with soot and eveything smells of smoke. Paper just soaks up that smell.

While framed work generally fared better than unframed work, my signed and numbered print (#2, actually) of the Michael Whelan painting The Eagles Are Coming from a 1980s Tolkien calendar melted in its frame. Fortunately, the pencil sketch on tracing paper of Sam and Frodo done for the full-sized painting, survived although it will have to be reframed. A painted color study of Yoda which Michael did for the cover of My Jedi Journal has smoke damage but should be o.k. Ditto two Frank Frazetta drawings. Most of the framed movie posters that were in the hall, including all three of the X-men films, the two new Batman films, and the two Swamp Thing films are pretty much ruined. My poster of the first of the new Zorro films, autographed by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, may be o.k. once it is reframed. The lobby cards for Swamp Thing are pretty much ruined. There was a 16 x 20 pencil drawing of Captain America that Jack Kirby did for Len as a get well card more than 40 years ago, which is in pretty bad shape.

In my office, the framed celebrity photographs I took when I used to freelance for the Washington Post are not visible because the soot is that bad. I hope they can be cleaned or reframed, because I don't have those negatives. The half-dozen framed prints from the science fiction portrait project, which were in "floater" frames are probably not salvageable, but I do own those negatives. My Epson 2400 printer has been declared a total loss, like all of the electronics in the house, wherever they were.

The few items hanging in the living room, like the diptych Michael Whelan did of the cover of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Bloody Sun, may need reframing, but will be o.k. I'll learn to live with any smoke smell from that, thank you. The statuary and awards that were on the mantle may be too damaged to salvage.

Len's office, which had an entire wall covered with awards and sketches, is in very bad shape. His Shazam Awards, which had been sealed on wood mounts are charred, melted, and not replaceable. He had a number of portraits of himself done by people like Sergio Aragones and Frank Kelly Freas which may be ruined beyond repair. Sergio's still alive, but Kelly died a number of years ago. I'm not sure how many of Len's original scripts, which a university recently requested for their collection, will survive. We haven't had a chance to get that far into things.

On Saturday, we did a repacking of our garage in case that all has to be moved out as well. Among the papers were found were a hand-written note from Alan Moore to Len which accompanied the delivery of the first issue of Watchmen. And that's why I keep referring to things as our archeological dig.

I will eventually post a few pictures, but I've got to replace some of my computer equipment before I start downloading images.


DivaLea said...

This is all so familiar, the losses and finds that are like the path of a tornado through the inside of your house.
You probably know that my house burned in September 2006. My experience was similar: lost art (mine, mostly), lost signed books, mementos, and the strangest things miraculously untouched. A painting of mine in an otherwise ravaged room had to be re-framed but under the soot was fresh as a daisy. Other art in the same room burned off the walls.

And having no clothes. I wore the same nasty stuff from our destroyed-and-soaked-by-firehoses dryer for a day.
A thousand sympathies on Sheba. Our dogs were found in their safe places, too. Poor babies.
Do you remember Summer? The last time you saw her, she was dangling from my hand for a picture for you. She woke up when she smelled smoke, dragged her brother to me, and I got us all out.
I wish you strength and luck and good humor through the rebuilding.
You can write me any time for moral support. divalea @ gmail.com

M. C. Valada said...

Thanks, Lea. I'm not sure I knew that you had a fire. Sometimes Len neglects to tell me things. Thanks for your good thoughts. We're in the rental house and now we've got to deal with the trash at the old.