From freeze to flames, freshman Jay Singh faces home loss following an Arctic apocalypse

Firefighters arrive at CVHS freshman Jay Singhs house as a fire, resulting from the electrical shortages resulting from the winter storm, consumes his house (Singh family).

Photo courtesy of Singh family.

Firefighters arrive at CVHS freshman Jay Singh’s house as a fire, resulting from the electrical shortages resulting from the winter storm, consumes his house (Singh family).

On February 15th, most families’ worst worries were freezing through the night. This was not the case for CVHS freshman Jay Singh and his family. Late Monday night, at 10:30 pm, Singh sat down for dinner when all of a sudden they heard a thud upstairs. Little did they know, a fire had started in his sister’s room. 

The house fire displaced the Singh family from their home, joining them with the millions of Texans facing the consequences of a once-in-a-lifetime freeze. Within the state, about 4.4 million people were without power. Additionally, in a survey conducted by Upstream News on CVHS students, it shows that out of 335 reponses, about 93.1% of students had lost power during the storm.

Because the power was out, Singh’s mom collected food from her restaurant and placed it on the balcony upstairs, hoping that the weather would keep it cold. Just mere moments before the fire, Singh and his family were having dinner when they heard that very thud. Thinking it was an animal rummaging through the food, she raced upstairs only to find that the hallway was foggy. She opened the door to Singh’s younger sister’s room, blasted with a gust of smoke, and shouted out. The rest of the family rushed upstairs and saw a huge fire. Singh and his family frantically looked for his grandpa and he managed to escape by jumping out of the balcony. The rest of the family rushed out of the house to call 911. 

“Our neighbors were nice enough to take us in at night, and we were able to call 911 kind of quickly. But we lost most of the upstairs. The downstairs was okay for the most part,” said Singh. 

According to Singh, he and his family are still unsure about what caused the fire. Firefighters investigated and came to the conclusion that the potential cause came from dual current shorted electrical wires that were near a furnace.

“Well it was mostly just I was super scared for my grandpa because we’re pretty close and I didn’t want to lose him. But we were lucky that he was able to get out and then from there it was mostly just a little bit of sadness because of the loss of the stuff there and all that,” said Singh.

Video footage of fire that started from the top floor of Singh’s house (video courtesy of Jay Singh).

Singh and his family are living with his aunt as they proceed with their home recovery process. While the advancement of reconstruction or relocation remains in prospect, Singh and his younger sister, T.H.Rogers 7th grader Arha Singh, readily adapted to the shift and continue to attend classes regularly. Singh, a Rogers graduate himself, received outreach from both his high school and former school communities immediately following the fire. In particular he recognized Carnegie’s AP Human Geography/Social Studies teacher Dr. Charlotte Haney and Pre-AP English I/Journalism teacher Ms.Josephine Lee for their above and beyond assistance, and T.H. Rogers’ teacher-initiated effort in creating a GoFundMe to generate recovery funds for his family.

“All my basic needs are completely taken care of, and I also have a strong social network so people are always there for me. I think that I’m doing okay. It’s definitely a tough situation but all of these [people] have really helped,” said Singh.

For Singh, a week of steadfast school work allows him to spend portions of his weekends accompanying his parents as they juggle navigating the recovery situation with work life. The Singh family owns and manages three businesses in addition to their home property – one of them being the Murphy’s Deli on Woodway and Chimney Rock.

“We’re kind of fortunate because my dad’s a physician and his team is really willing to help. He’s able to work remotely pretty well, so he is able to still dedicate a lot of time to housing and stuff like that. And my mom is always trying to figure out what to do with the businesses but simultaneously, what to do for us,” said Singh.

Singh and his family after the fire. (Photo Courtesy of the Singh family)

Singh grew up hearing his parents repeat it, but the chronicled saying that a single matter of any scale has the potential to shift an entire lifetime never truly materialized in Singh’s life until the fire.

“We don’t have to be prepared for this kind of weather because it never happens. But, as this has shown, one storm caused a ton of damage and a lot of displacement and problems across the state,” said Singh.

Among the CVHS students and staff alone, the Upstream’s Storm Impact Survey circulated from February 22nd to the 25th following Storm Uri found that a majority lost electricity, water, and Internet for 2 to 4 days. A rounded 99% reported to be undisplaced and living in their homes post-freeze, but out of the 131 personal response remarks, close to 80 respondents personally reported grappling with consequential pipe and plumbing system damage. 

Health-wise, several students reported experiencing the side effects of physical and mental exhaustion facilitated by the unforeseen collapse of infrastructure. One family reported that each member got sick within hours of the other, and another student suffered from dehydration with access to water supply encumbered by static pipelines and sold-out storefronts.

“It was traumatizing,” wrote a CVHS 9th grader.

Belonging to the slim 1% of the CVHS displaced population, Singh finds that his resilience in recovering from home loss remains un-displaced from the fire nor freeze. So far, he sees the turnover as a pivotal benchmark among the Singh family’s endeavors.

“Other times, I think about my experiences in the past, and not really being sad that my house is gone, but rather, that ‘hey, I had that house, that nice place,’” said Singh.