Posts from the ‘Bastrop Complex Fire 2011’ Category

House Buying Nonsense

This is my 135th post which according to WordPress is some sort of milestone so I hope this is worthy of it.

I’m not sure just how long mortgage companies and title companies and insurance companies have been working together to make it possible for us little people to purchase a house but I’m thinking it has been decades, maybe even over 100 years, maybe even longer. You’d think they would really have all the kinks worked out and yet today I get CC’ed on the following e-mail from our insurance company to one of the two people from the mortgage company we are working with.

Hi Daniel,
I received the Evidence of Ins[urance] request you sent me yesterday, sorry I was not able to respond to you until today as I was out of the office yesterday.

I also received an Evidence of Ins[urance] request form from Sandra P, the information is a little different on her form.
So I need to verify which Evidence of Insurance Request form I should be using and whom should I correspond with on the Closing.

Is there an Appraisal available? If so can you Email me a copy.

Sandra gave me the following info.
Closing Date 03/15/2012
Name and address of the mortgage company

This raises several questions. Why are multiple people from the mortgage company conversing with the insurance company? Why are the two mortgage company people asking for or providing “slightly different” information? Why doesn’t Sandra know the closing date is 3/26/2012 and not 3/15/2012? And outside of this exchange why has Sandra been asking me for documentation I supplied to Daniel a couple of weeks ago?

I’ve also had to supply a copy of the canceled check for the earnest money. I guess the mortgage company doesn’t trust the title company.

We are talking multi-billion dollar corporations here and yet this kind of crap happens.

Last time we went through this e-mail wasn’t as pervasive as it is today so we wouldn’t have been included on the minutia and I guess they handled this all by phone and fax. Amazing anything got done. On the other hand it is also amazing that with all the new technology it still takes 30 days to close typically.

I can’t wait for the end of March and yet I’ll still be crossing my fingers that somewhere someone hasn’t screwed up about the payoff of the old house and we won’t suddenly be told we still owe on it. I’ve read about this happening in this whole foreclosure mess.


New Hobby

I’m sure that seem like a strange title to be associated with the fire but this is a little vignette about how life flows. First the back story.

The Sunday after the fire started we were well aware that the house and everything else was gone. I suggested to Liz we go out to Yarnorama in Paige to see about getting her some new needles and some yarn for knitting. When we got there Susan came out and told us they were closed because she and her husband were living there as they had been evacuated because of the fire. Liz said “we were burned out” and Susan said “come on in.” We had a very nice conversation with her about our experience and Liz losing all her knitting, quilting, sewing stuff and what things had been like for them and other people. Liz bought some stuff and we went on our way.

Now the rest of the story.

Over the past couple of weeks Liz and I had both heard that Yarnorama had been collecting supplies for textile artisans and that we should go out there so Liz could get some supplies.

Today we went because I wanted to get information on weaving since I won’t be able to pot for awhile plus it give Liz a chance to get some yarn. Liz got a huge bag full of yarn, I bought a loom and have a class next Sunday to teach me the basics of using it and Susan told us about the outpouring of support she received from all over the country, as far away as Alaska, in support of textile artists in Bastrop. Half her shop had been filled twice to overflowing with donations including things like spinning wheels and looms. A teacher in Giddings organized a group of students to knit blankets and Susan shipped two truck loads of yarn and supplies to them. At one point she had so much stuff in the shop she was at a standstill because she just didn’t know how to deal with the amount of stuff she had. Another group of people have been knitting things like towels and wash clothes. One group is doing sweaters and hats, winter is coming.

So what sparked her in to doing this? Well I’m sure it would have happened anyway because sooner or later someone else would have come along and told her about being burned out but she told us today it was our visit that made her realize she needed to do something to help.

I love this community.

Lessons Learned

Most of you will not pay attention. I’m not telling you anything you haven’t heard before but you’ll go on with the typical “It won’t happen to me” attitude that we had. We were drinking beer and watching the fire when we should have been loading the car.

All those important documents that you never need like social security card and passport and birth certificate, car title, house deed, etc. Need to be offsite in a safe deposit box. Maybe you listened to FEMA and you have an emergency folder ready to grab when you head out the front door. What happens when the disaster comes while you are at church or grandma’s or on vacation? I have met to many people who all they had left were the clothes they were wearing and their car because they were out when the roads were closed.

Create a list of everything you own. I mean everything. Five columns on the spreadsheet. Quantity, description (the more detail the better including model and serial numbers where appropriate), unit price, extension (quantity times unit) and year purchased. That way when the disaster happens you just need to add a column that subtracts year purchased from now to get age. The way our insurance works and I assume others that have “replacement cost” is that they pay you the depreciated value first and then when you submit a receipt for the replacement they make up the difference. I’m sure there is some sort of checking since we way upgraded our TV and I don’t expect the difference between the cost of the old TV and the new but I do expect the un-depriciated value to be covered. That video of what you owned is pretty useless. They don’t seem to really request proof of ownership, only proof of re-purchase. Now if you have an expensive collections you better have let the insurance company know about them ahead of time so they can schedule them.

If you rent get renters insurance. Pretty significant coverage is cheap, less than $150 a year for an apartment. I know, I’ve done it twice in the past six months.

Do have a plan. We didn’t get out nearly as much as we could have and not the all of the personally important stuff. But having evacuated once before we were not at a total loss. A large chunk of our pictures where in a file cabinet and we grabbed that. I got the computer backups that are on an external drives. Liz’s computer was lost but we recovered everything on to her new one. Randomly I grabbed our SCUBA log book that happened to be on the counter and I had Liz grab the quilt she has been working on for our oldest son and his wife. Ian grabbed some personal possessions that I would not have thought about. You almost certainly won’t be able to get every memento but you can get lots if you are home and have thought through what you want to save.

Now, all those things you keep saying you are going to give to someone. Do it now! I had a couple of stacks of collectible CD’s that were going to go out to people. There were a couple of things that belonged to my great grandfather that needed to go to a museum dedicated to his military outfit. I had some genealogical information to send to my brother. All ashes now. Pack it up and send it out. Doesn’t guarantee that a disaster at that persons home won’t cause it to be destroyed but at least you will have done the best you can.

Bastrop county is pulling together and will come back. We will have our pine forest again, before I die. If you want to help come out here and spend money in Bastrop and Smithville in particular but anywhere in the county helps. That also helps fight “corporate greed” if you are in to that since nobody on Main street in either town is anything like corporate.

I’ve had people comment on my attitude and “resiliency.” I’ll say it again you can either let this eat you up or you can move on. I’ll always kick myself for not taking advantage of the extra time we had but that is over. All we can do is move on. The stuff is gone. A lot of it we will replace but there is also a lot of stuff out of our lives. Things we kept because we had the space or because we might use it some day. A bit of irony is that I’ve been collecting old computer CDs for years to make mobiles with. That Sunday morning I finally went to the hardware store and bought some metal rods to begin making mobiles with…

Life is what happens while we are busy making plans.


Fires of various sizes continue to pop up. Most are small and quickly contained but a several hundred acre fire ignited yesterday and with light winds blowing north it created a small panic because it was going into unburned territory. It seems to be mostly under control at this point.

Driving out 71 to the property, can’t call it “the house” anymore, is weird. The electric COOP is clearing their right of way in a a big way. A few houses along the highway have been cleared away. A large batch of dead trees has been cleared on the south side of the highway and a surveyor was working. That one really scares me. I am afraid that developers might take advantage of loosened rules to stick in subdivisions.

We have a quote from a company to clear the lot. It seems like a lot of work and it comes in under what the insurance company will pay. The company is recommended by a friend which is good. Although in the “it’s a small world” department the guy who did the estimate is the nephew of people who used to live near us. Hopefully he didn’t pick up any of the weird genes.

On the 15th we are going to Italy, TX to an open house from The Monolithic Dome Institute to see about a concrete dome for a home. At first reading that sounds ugly but a lot of cool things can be done with this including an partial torus (horseshoe) shape that we are interested in.

We got the keys to the apartment on Tuesday and Liz and Ian moved all the stuff from the car to the apartment. We spent the weekend shopping for “stuff” so there was a couple of thousand dollars worth of stuff in the Tahoe and I had this vision of it being stolen or wrecked. Friday the beds and living room furniture arrive and they will officially move in. I’ll be there on Saturday with the first shipment of stuff coming back from Dallas. We have a dining room table and a table for the office plus the key parts of my pottery gear. A big save was our digital SLR. I haven’t used it but I did bring it up here.

Life goes on. We have puppies for anyone interested.


I saw this in a message from another fire survivor.

My house burned down.
Now I have a clearer view
of the rising moon.

Just What We Need, Not!

As if things weren’t crazy enough we have these.


Liz was driving her route and saw seven mangy, starving puppies on the roadside. She finished the route, drove the scooter home, got Ian and the car and went back to get the pups. She then drove to our normal vet but they were closed because of a family emergency. Off to another vet. Shots, baths, food but fortunately a vet tech adopted two puppies. They also gave her a bunch of food.

So if you are interested in a puppy you can have one now. You will need to bathe it (them) twice a week and they need a dose of medication a week for five more weeks.

Sifting the Rubble

We’ve done some sifting. As I mentioned before we found some rings that were important to Liz. They were just in a little jewelry box laying in the ashes. Liz also found a Madonna that had been her mother’s, again, just laying there. We did find one of the fire proof boxes. Unfortunately they are not crush proof and once crushed the stuff inside burns anyway.

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Clearly brass/bronze and ceramics can survive. Almost all of the damaged to the ceramics came from things falling on them. Other interesting things were puddles of aluminum that I finally figured out were the window frames. The recognizable 35mm camera is a Minolta from the mid-80’s. On it’s right is the image screen from an early 2000’s Nikon 35mm SLR, all that survived from the primarily plastic camera. We also had lots of metal rings from late model lenses where the plastic bits are gone. The big glob of green glass is from the fish tank. Poor rufus our 15 year old spotted raphael catfish. He moved from Texas to Nebraska and back. He was in my office at work for several years too.

I am back in Dallas for work and this weekend is a party weekend for Liz and I. Although we are going to different parties. Liz will be at the Austin Scooter Club Riff Raff rally but she won’t have her shirt from the first rally. I’ll be at the Sherwood Forest Celtic Festival .

We are beginning to look for builders and hoping that our neighbors will rebuild as well. We got the number from a sign that said “We build homes that don’t burn.”

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