Above, Amber Walsh sits outside her home as the San Marcos Fire Department works to put out a fire. Photo courtesy of Amber Walsh
Community rallies around family following fire
A thick layer of smokey soot lay cover over the entire house. Christmas — at least in the traditional sense — is on hold for Amber Walsh as she and her two daughters seek new living accommodations following a fire at their home.
The family, just three day earlier, had celebrated Thanksgiving. Walsh was at home preparing dinner when the unthinkable happened.
“I had just gotten home for work and was straightening things up,” Walsh said. “I was greeted by two fussy felines — so I fed them; it was cold, so I turned on a space heater in the garage.”
She went about preparing dinner and after a little while began to smell something.
“I had been home for almost two hours and was on the phone with my daughter who was at a friend,” she said. “I started to smell something, but it just didn’t register with me what it was until I heard the fire alarm go off in the garage.”
A fire alarm she had installed just 10 months earlier.
“I knew not to open the door, so I kicked open the pet door leading into the garage and saw something,” Walsh said.
By that time, she knew it was safe to open the door slightly to look. What she saw was the entire back wall of her garage in flames.
“I hung up the phone and immediately called 911,” Walsh added. “I knew I had a fire extinguisher under the sink so I grabbed it, but I couldn’t figure out how it worked.”
She knew most fire extinguishers had a pin to pull, but hers didn’t. Finally, she figured it out and went to work dousing the flames until help arrived.
“I thought I had the fire out,” she said. “I even foolishly thought about opening the windows, airing out the house, and picking up where I left off, but the fire started back up. Even worse, my fire extinguisher was empty.”
Walsh said her “fight or flight” instincts were wearing thin. She had been fighting the blaze alone but with it reigniting, it was time to flee.
In short order, the San Marcos Fire Department had units on the scene and even though her house wasn’t destroyed by flames, it has been ruled, uninhabitable.
Just over two weeks since the fire Walsh says they’re still in “limbo.”
“It’s been difficult,” she said. “We’ve been living with family and friends; I’m fine living out of a box or a suitcase, but the kids…I don’t want them to live this way.”
As for their belongings, Walsh said most of her things were destroyed as her items were positioned closer to the point of the fire. But, thankfully most of the children’s items were able to be salvaged.
“I’ve already decided to try and restore my antique bedroom suite which was my grandmothers,” Walsh said. “Our family Bible, too. It had by grandmother’s handwriting in it, and our family tree. It’s interesting what you determine as important and what is just, ‘stuff.’”
The biggest surprise of all Walsh said has been the outpouring of support from her friends and co-workers.
“I’m not a taker I’m a giver,” she said. “I like to give; it makes me feel good. But the support I’ve gotten from friends and people I work with has been amazing.”
She said her kids seem to be handling the tragedy better than her, and she hopes to be in a permanent dwelling, soon.
“I’ve got to get a Christmas tree up — and stockings,” she said with a smile. “My girls are 10 and 13. I don’t have long with them enjoying Christmas as children. I don’t want them spending it living out of a box. Still, I’m very thankful — it could have been so much worse.”
A GoFundMe has been established to help Walsh and her family. As of Monday, it's raised nearly $5,000.