CHENEY – Sporting a green Santa cap from a last-minute Christmas shopping trip, Karen Brown arrived at her home Tuesday afternoon and saw smoke billowing from her living room.
Sorting out the afternoon’s turn of events at her neighbor’s home, Brown was trying to keep things in perspective.
“I have my life, and I have good friends,” Brown said.
“It’s just stuff. It’s not the essence of who you are.”
Cheney firefighters already were fighting the blaze around 4 p.m. when Brown got back to the house at 315 Cherry Tree Court.
Neighbors had called 911 after seeing flames coming from the front window.
The damage, mostly to the living room, dining room and attic, could reach $70,000, Cheney fire Lt. Tim Steiner said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Brown said firefighters have indicated that a short involving Christmas lights hanging from the front window could be at fault.
It appeared the fire started near where those lights were displayed.
Brown, 56, has lived in the home for 12 years. Firefighters found her cat unharmed in the basement. Two sets of neighbors offered her a place to stay for the night.
During the holiday season, Brown prefers to wear a black Santa hat that says “Bah Humbug.” She chose to wear the green hat and a green T-shirt that says “Lucky” to celebrate the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, which was Tuesday.
“I’m beginning to wonder about this shirt,” Brown said.
Brown, who has insurance for the home, is unemployed, but she holds an educational psychology doctorate from Texas Tech University.
After the fire, Brown was contemplating whether she should go ahead and attend a winter solstice party, even though she might not be able to retrieve the gifts she had planned to give.
“This house is replaceable, and I’m not,” Brown said. “As the song says, ‘I will survive.’ “