So just after 5am I smell smoke, see a small fire in barn, centred on the broiler chick enclosure and run back inside to scream at Paul, waking him up. Once I knew he understood the situation (he's not at his best first thing) I returned to the barn to see if we could contain/extinguish the fire. Some sparks had caught a bale of hay so I went to try and push that away from other bales, unfortunately I miscalculated and pushed it too close to the fire which Paul was dousing with buckets of water and the fire flared up. Even if I hadn't made such a silly mistake we had little chance of extinguishing the fire as the water source was too far away although Paul is still more horrified that I got myself into a position of having a fire between me and the exit than the fact I fed the fire.
Once I exited the barn, Paul was still fighting the fire, I went to main house to wake Marcus and Sarah so they could help - we still thought we had a chance of extinguishing the fire, however on return to the compound it was obvious the fire was gaining ground so when the appeared I just shouted at them to let the animals out of the other outbuildings (only the sheep lived in the main barn). Give them they due despite all their other failings they not only opened all the exterior doors but also went into Rabbit Ritz and opened each cage door. A decision was made to call the fire brigade and start removing personal possessions from our bedroom, next to the barn, Marcus and Sarah were advised to remove all their possessions from the main house.
Paul reversed my van away from the barn, even so the front end melted a bit, IF you know where to look. So what's the first things you would grab if your house was burning? Mine were passport, mobile and laptop (means of communication) and Paul's electric guitar????????? next trip into the house was for more practical items like clothing. I think I managed 4 trips leaving stuff by door for Paul to move to safety before paying attention to him screaming at me that I needed to get out, as he was leaving by the front door the electric cables burnt through and dropped just missing him. Throughout the process of grabbing clothes i had been trying to get through to emergency services. The number is 112 NOT 121 (which is vivacom customer services) 112 is now stored on my mobile under 'emergency' After failing to dial the right number, repeatedly, I went across to Baba Bonners and knocked her up, luckily despite my complete inability to remember any relevant Bulgarian words she grasped the situation and called emergency services.
Within an hour the barn roof was well on fire, the fire was spreading along the extension roof and into the main house roof. The fire brigade arrived within an hour from Popovo, 16k away, I'm sure I listened to the sirens for at least 30 minutes wondering if they were driving around aimlessly looking for us. All we could do during this time was move vehicles and stand with our Bulgarian neighbours and watch our home burn, we may have shed the odd tear or 2. Martin, Pauline and Guillaume's van, was moved further away from the house and Baba Bonner's grandson helped push Paul's car further from the house, we hadn't picked up the keys during our exodus. It sounds weird but having our neighbours watch with us was reassuring, especially as Iliya didn't skimp on hugs for both of us during this period. Marcus and Sarah, yes they got out of the house safely, with all their possessions and proceeded to stand apart from everyone else until Shelley, our English neighbour, came up. She apologised that she couldn't stay and help but needed to go into Popovo in a few hours, it was organised that she would take Marcus and Sarah to the hostel there, so they returned to her house with her. I later found out they contacted their next hosts who agreed to them arriving early, so after they had showers and breakfast Shelley took them to the train station.
Some English friends arrived, from 30k away, I'd phoned them at silly o'clock, in my panic at not being able to contact the fire brigade. Although I have no photographs of the blaze and fire fighters at work Peter did get some photos, which he has said he will give us at a later date. Peter and Claire were brilliant, I can't say exactly how but they got us through the day. By the end of the day with the help of another English couple the 6 of us had managed to empty out the kitchen and our living/bedroom so the extension had nothing in that could suffer water damage. Pete asked if he could put the situation on Facebook, saying we needed help, we agreed as long as it was emphasized ALL we need was physical help removing our possessions from the main house. We also needed tarps and tents, to protect the property and us, but luckily our friends and the wider ex-pat community came to the rescue loaning us items we have been very grateful for since that day. We also received offers from people, Bulgarian and English, offering us the use of their homes, we accepted Shellies offer of sleeping there, as it's only a minutes walk away and we could still be around for the animals. Sunday we received some tents, on loan, so could move back home.
Saturday, Pete and Claire returned along with some more acquaintances who live about 30k away, Sunday in addition to the people from Saturday friends from further afield arrived and by Sunday night the main property was emptied with our possessions placed under tarps on the summer kitchen extension flat roof. Sunday also brought a Dutch friend who brought along a builder to assess the damage. Everyone was knackered and it was agreed that nobody would turn up Monday allowing Paul and myself a chance to view the damage and plan the way forward.
Monday I had to put out another shout for help as we had heavy rains and high winds and I couldn't stop crying imagining all the stuff we've removed from the property being ruined by water damage. We also remembered to send Pauline and Guillaume a text letting them know about the fire and informing them that if they arrived back by hitching, rather than us collecting them from town, it looked worse than it was.
Tuesday saw the arrival of familiar faces and new people, we'd never met before, who were supplying us with either safe storage facilities or transport to those facilities.
Not a nice thing to have happened and even though I'm still 'delicate' about the situation the whole episode (ongoing) gives us faith in humanity. There are many more caring nice people in the world than the rest, whatever the media would have us believe.