A Clay City family whose home and possessions were uninsured are hoping the public will help them with money and other donations after a fire destroyed their garage and caused their house to be unlivable.
Melissa Boram had been renting the home at 909 White St., where she lived with her daughter McKenzie, 8, and son Bradon Graham, 5. Boram said the family had been driving to Bloomington with her boyfriend, Daniel Evans, when she received a call about the fire.
The April 11 fire was discovered when a woman outside the post office in Clay City noticed an unusual odor and drove her car in the direction the smell was coming from to investigate, Clay City Assistant Fire Chief Jim Rupp said. When she identified the scent as smoke, she reported it to Town Marshal Terry Skaggs, and the local fire department was dispatched to the property owned by Wayne Sinders at 11:08 a.m. Volunteer firefighters from Lewis and Center Point townships were also on scene.
"We know it started in the garage or in the vicinity of the garage," Rupp said. "The wind was blowing, so it blew the heat toward the house."
By the time the fire was discovered and firefighters dispatched, the garage fire was less of a concern than the possibility of the flames spreading to the house approximately 30-50 feet away.
"By that particular point, the garage was so consumed by fire, we immediately went to protect the houses," he said.
The heat caused the siding to start melting, and the styrofoam started burning. The flames went under the eaves and then under the metal roof, which held the flames inside out of the firefighters' reach.
"We had to tear the roof off to get to the fire," Rupp said.
The wood gable burned and there was water damage to the interior of the house although the fire didn't enter the other portion of the house, he said. The structure sustained electrical damage, and firefighters were also concerned about the neighboring house to the north belonging to Marilyn Morris.
"We were fortunate to be able to save the house. That was the big thing I think," Rupp said. "There were two dogs in the vicinity of the garage that succumbed to the heat. When we got there, there was no one in the house."
Boram's two Rottweilers died as a result of the fire, and Evans' 1995 Sonoma was destroyed inside the burning garage. The state fire marshal investigated the blaze and officially listed the cause as undetermined due to the extent of the damage, Rupp said. Firefighters didn't provide a damage estimate as neither Boram or Sinders had insured the structures.
"The kids lost everything - clothes, beds, toys," said Jamie Cullison, Boram's sister. The family was particularly devastated by the loss of the two family pets. "The kennel was attached to the garage and they couldn't get out."
Boram said that while she received a few nights at a hotel and some money for toiletries and similar items from the Red Cross, the family is searching for a permanent home, preferably one that would allow her children to continue at Clay City schools. While the house wasn't destroyed by fire, the roof collapsed over the children's bedrooms.
"Pretty much everything was smoke damaged and waterlogged," she said. "Me and two kids are practically living in my car now."
The family's salvageable possessions are in storage, but Boram said when she opened the door to the storage facility recently, their belongings reeked of smoke.
"No one's even made an attempt to help," she told The Brazil Times on Friday, conveying her concerns about rumors preventing people from offering assistance. "There was a rumor going around there was a meth lab in my garage."
The explosion caused by the truck in the garage, which Boram said had a full tank of gas, may have prompted residents to speculate about the existence of a meth lab. She said the police explained neighbors and bystanders would have detected a distinctive scent if a meth lab had been inside.
Boram said she isn't working now as the cost of childcare is greater than the income from the positions she's held, leaving very little for replacement costs. While relatives have been able to help with temporary places to stay and clothing, the lack of insurance to cover replacement costs is a concern.
"I wouldn't be so worried if it wasn't for the two kids. They can't keep living out of a car," she said.
The children lost all of their toys and outdoor equipment in the fire. She had recently purchased a new bike for her son, and after the blaze, he pedaled over to her on what remained of his bike: a burnt frame with no tires or seat. Although she would like to purchase toys and other recreational equipment for her children, moving into a house is her highest priority.
"That would be the most helpful thing, to get my kids into a house," she said. "I never dreamed of it being me. Never."
Persons wishing to donate money or other items to the Boram family may contact her sister Jamie at home at 812-383-4076 or on her cell phone at 812-201-6742.