Debbie Rinckey had about eight minutes to scurry about her burning home between the time the accidental chimney fire started and the time the first of 15 local area and Anchorage fire trucks responded to her Eagle River Valley home that was soon engulfed in flames last Saturday night.
She grabbed what she could.
But she forgot her shoes.
“So many pairs of shoes,” she said, noting she snagged a pair of comfy shoes and some flip-flops at Fred Meyer on Monday. “And now none. But I think I will be more thankful for what I do have.”
The “what” Rinckey does have includes every member of her family safely escaping the fire.
It includes her kitty “Gizmo” being found alive even after fire fighters searched unsuccessfully after the blaze was put out.
“We found him later after the fire was out,” Rinckey said. “He was hiding under the bed.”
It also includes significantly more family photos and other memorabilia than she expected fire fighters would be able to save: graduation cap, tassel and pictures, photos displayed on shelves that were not the most prominent in the home thus she knew the fire fighters had taken extra effort to snatch those items, stacks of files and papers and even the family’s Elf on the Shelf named Herbie that was still sitting on the mantel.
“He was unscathed,” Rinckey said with a laugh. “Kind of eerie.”
While the longtime Eagle River resident active in chamber events and the local Women In Business organization is trying to keep her sense of humor, the complete destruction of her family’s log home is also showing her and her family the depth of care the local community offers.
“The firefighters were amazing,” Rinckey said. I know this is their job but I could tell they were doing everything they could to save whatever they could that was important to us. It brought me to tears when I lifted the tarp they covered it with. These people are angels. I cannot thank them enough.”
She is also thankful that hundreds of dollars of her son’s hockey gear was left “festering” in the car as she described it. Her son, Ben Rinckey, is a standout hockey player for the Eagle River High School Wolves and his play for comp teams meant his helmet, pads and skates were not in the house when the fire struck.
Rinckey and her family – husband Brad, sons Ben, age 17, and Quinn, age 8 – are living in the family’s motor home with the cat and Sammy their dog.
It will take three to four months, she estimates for cleanup and reconstruction of their log home.
Most of the family’s belongings must be replaced.
A collection effort is underway by the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce. Items and monetary donations are being accepted at the chamber’s offices in downtown Eagle River.