About 20 years ago my studly boyfriend (now my husband) Bruce was taking me back to my parents home after a rousing night on the town with family members. My brother Don and his wife Josie were with us.
We crested a hill on my country road and saw that a neighboring house had flames licking along its roof line! It was a group home for the handicapped that was in the final stages of construction so thankfully it was not yet occupied. The group home was built on an existing farm place and was situated about 100 yards from the old farm house where I knew a family of four lived.
We went to the door of the farmers home, we knocked loudly and shouted, but no one came to the door. We went inside and I used their phone to dial 911. We were told by the dispatcher to wait inside by the phone in case the fire fighters needed to reach us. We talked and watched out the windows as the roof of the other house became fully engulfed in flames. Fire trucks soon came with their lights flashing. The volunteer firemen worked hard to contain the fire. They sprayed the house we were in to keep it from burning.
A few of our neighbors back then had protested that this group home was being built in our area. I explained this to our small party as we waited and I also mentioned that the farmer and his wife were not the type to be out at this time of the night. We must have watched too many episodes of Quincy because our imaginations took over and we began to wonder.... could someone have harmed the family then started the fire? We decided we must search the home in case the family had been hurt or incapacitated in some way by the alleged arsonist. We knocked, then opened a door and saw the farmer and his wife in their bed. We knocked again, but they still didn't move! My brother said loudly, "Wake up! The house is on fire!" The man jumped up from his bed, his eyes bugged halfway out of their sockets. He grabbed his boots and sprinted towards us. We flattened ourselves against the wall to avoid being trampled as the farmer flew past us and out of the house leaving his wife and his two children who were sleeping upstairs to fend for themselves.
The farmer soon realized it wasn't actually his house that was burning. He thanked us profusely saying they would have slept through the whole thing if we hadn't woken them up.
It was later determined that the fire was accidental, something with the electrical wiring. The house was rebuilt and is still functioning as a group home today.
The moral of the story: Help your wife and children out of the house if you think it is on fire or else your neighbors will forever describe the look of terror on your face as you ran from your home, abandoning your family to their fate. They will laugh and shake their heads as they re-tell the story many times over the years.
Or maybe the moral should be: Yelling, "The house is on fire!" is not necessarily the best way to awaken a deeply sleeping man when the house next door to his is burning.
Another moral possible: Lock your doors so over imaginative neighbors have to go to their own home a mile down the road to call for help when the house next door to yours is on fire.