Yesterday marked the premiere of Rachael Ray’ talk show’s 15th season. Rachael has brought viewers into her New York home through her talk show for years, however never so much than when quarantine went into place and it became home base for the show. But on August 9th, that home was destroyed by a chimney fire, taking with it a lifetime of memories for Rachael and her husband, John Cusimano. Fortunately, they both escaped unharmed, as did their dog, Bella. Rachael and John discussed the fire and its devastation for her show’s premiere. Over the weekend, Rachael posted some photos and video of the fire and its aftermath as a preview for her fans. In one shot, she showed her burned out home in the background over which she wrote:
On August 9th, my house burned. 15 years of memories; 40 years of notebooks, drawings, thoughts, my life’s work…In the years that I lived here, I learned an awful lot. In the few weeks since it burned, I think I’ve learned even more. Today we’re going to share what’s left of our home.
In another IG, she showed a promo of the show that showed both footage of the house burning and what Rachael walked back into once the fire was put out. The videos and photos are heartbreaking, especially when you listen to Rachael’s description of what went through her mind when she ran upstairs to collect what she could, but realized it was too late when she heard the fire in the walls:
I ran upstairs to get medicine, my notebooks, my mother’s high school ring, you know – things – that when your house is burning down, you don’t want to leave. But when I ran to the top of the stairs, I could hear the fire in the wall. I could hear electricity, I could hear… danger. Because I am a part of the Denis Leary Firefighter Foundation and the first female on their board, I’ve been in enough fake control fires to know to be very scared of sounds and fire itself. So I immediately turned, to run out and there was a Hadley Reserve firefighter standing literally next to me, “Get out! Get out!” I’m like, “I’m trying! I’m trying!” (laughing) yelling at each other. And he said, “Go! Go!” and we ran down the stairs and John was coming up the stairs as we were going down the stairs. And I said, “You can’t go, you can’t go in there. You can hear the fire in the walls.
Rachael showed a few clips of the fire consuming her home as she spoke, it’s really quite chilling. But, Rachael being who she is, she used her story as an opportunity to share fire safety tips with viewers by interviewing the fire investigator who let her back into her house the day following the fire. You’ll never be emotionally prepared to lose your home, but having some idea of how to react might save the lives of those in it.
As Rachael mentioned in the first clip, she is on the board of Denis Leary’s foundation and had him on as a guest for the show as well. Immediately after the fire Denis helped Rachael and John prepare for what they would experience when they returned to the scene. During Monday’s show, Denis, John and Rachel used the segment as an opportunity to educate viewers on how firefighters were impacted by the pandemic and it’s economic fallout. For instance, Denis mentioned that safety bubbles mean crews are not switching out with other crews. With the wildfires currently raging on the west coast, I can’t imagine what that means for those battling the blazes. Denis and Rachael also discussed how the shortage of PPE for all critical workers means firefighters were ill-equipped with masks and shields to prevent fatal smoke inhalation. You can donate to The Leary Firefighters Foundation here.
I’ve linked the clips but I’m not embedding them because quite honestly, I’m worried about them triggering someone. Losing your home and memories to a fire, I’ve heard, is one of the greatest traumas a person can endure. I had an experience in my youth that left me permanently scared of uncontained fires (I’m okay with fires in fireplaces or fire pits, but I never take my eyes off them) and that was just having to evacuate our home, but it was saved in the end. I cannot imagine what someone who actually lost their home has been through. Unfortunately, I am one step closer to understanding this year as my uncle and aunt lost their home in one of the recent Santa Cruz fires. I’ve stayed with them countless times, so I knew exactly what is gone and watching the video my cousin sent of the charred, smoldering remains left me choked on emotion. My uncle and aunt must now start over – and they are in their 80s.
As I mentioned, my state and our neighbors Oregon and Washington are being devastated by wildfires. The closest to me is 50 miles so my home is safe. However, our yard is covered in ash and we have to check the air quality every day to see if we can open our windows (thank goodness for masks right now!). The sky is permanently clouded over with the worst smog LA has had in 30 years and we live daily under a blood red sun and sepia-toned sky. All of that is eerie, but it’s more so a reminder that some folks are losing everything and are forced to find safe shelter in the middle of a pandemic. I feel terrible for Rachael and I am so glad no one was hurt. She said in one clip that they are fortunate because they have the means to rebuild, where others are not as lucky. Even so, Rachael lost a lifetime of memories, no amount of money can reclaim that.
Photo credit: Rachael Ray Show Instagram