Backside of fire-damaged camper

The Fire

I am sad to share that our camper is no more.

Friday started out as a good day. After enjoying my new morning routine — reading, coffee, breakfast, yoga, meditation — and the best episode of Real Housewives ever, I headed north to Wisconsin for lunch with a friend.

I was on my way to get gas before returning to Illinois when Jason called, asking where I was. I told him, and he told me not to get on the interstate but drive to his mom’s house. He’d meet me there. It was clear in his voice that something was wrong. With two aging grandparents back “home”, I braced myself for what I thought was devastating news. It wasn’t what I thought …

Turns out, there was a fire at Jason’s mom’s house … in the “shop” (barn/garage structure) … next to where we parked our camper … and where we stored Jason’s 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. Jason didn’t have much information and wasn’t sure what I would be walking into.

I got to Whitewater. As I came over a hill about a mile from the house, I saw all the flashing lights and the blocked road. Thankfully, I was able to go around on a side road, park, and jog across the street to the scene. What I found was not good …

Front view of camper, fire damage visible along the side

Back view of fire-damaged camper

The flames from the shop jumped to our camper and eventually to another outbuilding. While the fire department arrived on the scene very quickly, the high winds blowing that day and an old structure ensured the fire did its damage. I could see right then that our camper was a total loss.

Fire-damaged camper from door

Fire-damaged camper couch

Fire-damaged camper bathroom

Fire-damaged camper kitchen

Side of fire-damaged camper

Backside of fire-damaged camper

We came back Saturday to deal with our second fire casualty — Jason’s ’57 Chevy. Jason bought the ’57 Chevy after he started working full-time — it was his first big purchase. With no garage to store it in at our last house, we kept it in his mom’s shop. It was still stored there through our move to Illinois.

As we talked with family and friends Friday night and Saturday morning, the car was the first thing on the minds of those who knew it was in the shop. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a good look at it on Friday immediately after the fire. Saturday’s task was getting the car out of the building and assessing the damage.

The battery that worked four months ago was now dead. We had to tow it out using our truck. Black soot coated the car. Inside was the foulest smoke smell ever. We thought the interior would be drenched, but it was dry. However, we don’t know if the car can be saved …

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air parked in fire-damaged garage

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air after being pulled from fire-damaged garage

After we got the car out, we dug into the camper to see what may have survived the flames. Many of our belongings in cabinets were untouched. We were able to pull out most of our dishes, kitchen ware, tools, gear, and games. Everything stinks of smoke, but we hope most of it will clean up.

As I said, the camper is a total loss. True, Jason and I had talked about an upgrade in the future. The hope was to save up for a few years, then use our savings and this camper on trade-in to get us into the next trailer. Right now, this is still the plan. But Plan A meant we had a camper to use in the meantime … Plan B means we are camper-less for the foreseeable future.

The last five days have been full of ups and downs. I am grateful that no one was hurt, all of my family is safe and healthy. In the long run, the camper and the car (for as invaluable as it is) are just things. They are replaceable. (Well, the car might not be replaceable, but you get the big-picture point.)

What hurts the most is what the camper meant to our little family. Camping weekends are precious to us. It’s when we unwind and reconnect. The camper made it easier to get out more often and to include both dogs in our adventures. Some of my favorite memories in recent years are from our camping trips. Camping changed my life. Now, I don’t know when we’ll have more of these precious experiences again.

This isn’t the end of our camping lifestyle, just a pause in it. And everything happens for a reason. I look forward with hope and excitement for what that reason is. I have faith that it will be good.


P.S. For those who will want to ask if we know the cause of the fire, we do. However, I don’t want to share that information publicly with the ongoing investigation. Just know that the cause as we know it makes the story way worse.

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  • Reply Scott Jones November 3, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    Oh no, that’s awful! 🙁

    • Reply Laura November 8, 2017 at 10:20 am

      It was a very sad end to our first little camper. And it’s turning out to be the sad end to our beloved classic car, too. 🙁

  • Reply Kristin Avery January 8, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    How devastating. I’m glad some of your things in the cabinets were saved. These photos are incredible and really help tell the story.

    • Reply Laura January 11, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      We’ve definitely had better days, that’s for sure. Never in a million years would I have thought that our camper would go up in flames, but it did. We’re glad we could salvage some of our belongings, and we’re looking forward to our next home away from home!

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