Home Destroyed by Fire, Restored by Community

Ron Walker measures a piece of wood before cutting it.
Ron Walker, an employee at First National Bank laughed as he retrieved the piece of wood that he had just cut from a long plank. “Just throwin’ stuff around” he joked. “Don’t mind me.”

Ron Walker, an employee at First National Bank, laughed as he retrieved the piece of wood that he had just cut from a long plank. “Just throwin’ stuff around” he joked. “Don’t mind me.”

 

Walker stood in the master bedroom that had been engulfed in flames about eight months earlier. He was volunteering with the Energy Capital Habitat for Humanity (ECHFH) nonprofit housing organization on Wednesday to rebuild a trailer home that was severely damaged after an electrical fire had overcome the home.

ECHFH Executive Director Brenda Kirk lead the effort to begin the restoration process just over three weeks ago, she said, after hearing from Children’s Developmental Services about how the fire had displaced the homeowner’s two children.

Over the last two weeks, Kirk has gathered a wide variety of community members from several organizations, programs and businesses to volunteer their time to rebuild the house.

Most of the fire’s affects were felt in the back bedroom and bath, though the rest of the home experienced heavy smoke damages. The walls throughout the home were dark where the billows had brushed past them months earlier.

Volunteers of America members fix smoke damaged drywall.
Two Volunteers of America volunteers work on restoring smoke-damaged drywall Wednesday.

The nonprofit’s role is to restore the areas that were directly destroyed by the fire, Kirk said. Meanwhile, two men with Volunteers of America were also present and worked to fix up the drywall in the hallway.

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Recruited by ECHFH, three men helped measure, cut and replace the windows. Walker explained that he had decided to lend a hand after receiving a bank-wide email from First National Bank employee and ECHFH volunteer Brenda Kron.

While working, Walker noticed that another volunteer, who was elongating the bedroom window, was struggling to cut through the plastic siding with his Sawzall.

“You need a new bit?” Walker asked, as the siding fought back.

The man nodded and immediately, Kirk and Walker began rummaging through toolboxes, unwilling to waste a second of the volunteers’ time. The team replaced the faulty extension and resumed their process.

As the men continued to work and converse, Kirk looked around as though searching for something else that needed to be done.

“We’d really like to replace the back deck,” she said as she opened the trailer door.

Outside of the house, sat a three-step set of stairs without any railing attached, it was about 18 inches away from the door and shook when weight was applied to it.

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“I haven’t found anyone who’s willing to do that, yet,” she said. “But if I can, I hope to finish the deck with the rest of the house, probably within the next couple of weeks.”

This Saturday, Kirk aims to gather a large group of volunteers as this is the only weekend in June that hasn’t fallen on a holiday or major event in the community.

“If we can get enough help with drywalling this weekend then I think we could finish the house by next week,” Kirk said optimistically.

ECHFH’s deadline for the home restoration is in mid-August, but Kirk noted she prefers to remain steadily ahead of schedule.

“We have a long time to finish this,” she admitted. “But I think the sooner we get this done and get the family back home, the better off we’ll all be.”

To help volunteer, call Kirk at (307) 228-0024.