On Valentine’s Day, Sylvester Brown’s home was engulfed in flames, and almost everything he and his wife had accumulated in the past 30 years went up in smoke.
The couple escaped unharmed wearing only their pajamas, and watched firefighters put out the blaze.
Brown said his neighbors took them in, gave them breakfast the next day, and then friends from his church took the couple to Wal-Mart to buy clothes. His church pastor and some of the church leaders also bought them formal clothes so they could attend on Sunday.
Brown said even though he lost about 95 percent of his wife and his belongings in the fire it could have been worse, especially since the one room that didn’t get destroyed was the daily devotion room where all of the family’s photos and keepsakes were held.
“We’re only losing a small portion of memories,” he said. “We are very thankful.”
The Brown’s house was one of three Columbia County homes destroyed over a three-day span in mid-February. A second house on Rhett Drive in Evans also caught fire later the night of Feb. 14.
In both cases, firefighters were delayed by fallen trees and powerlines still on the ground from a Feb. 12 ice storm that crippled the region. Firefighters had to remove a tree to reach Brown’s house at 254 Calloway Court. Even though it didn’t take long to get the fire under control, the house was still a total loss. Brown said he thinks the blaze began in the home’s fireplace.
As of now, Brown said they are in the process of finding the few items that can be salvaged from the home and settling into their new apartment. They now look forward to rebuilding.
“Everything is really going very, very smoothly,” Brown said. “So, we did get moved in and got all our clothes and had just a few more pieces to put up and we’re good to go.”
Two days after the Brown’s fire, the home of Martin and Joan Weidner, 4464 Shadowmoor Drive, was destroyed by fire. A fireplace was suspected as the source, but officials have not determined the cause.
Joan Weidner said they too, lost majority of their belongings, but they were thankful for the support of everyone around them, from their immediate family to the community at large.
Red Cross also assisted the family with money for groceries, clothes, shoes and seasonal garments. Weidner said they had relocated to a rental home and are starting all over from scratch.
Weidner said it was terrible to see more than 22 years of their lives destroyed in one night.
“I don’t wish this on my worst enemy,” Weidner said. “It’s just heartbreaking to think of at this stage in our lives. My husband’s 60 and I’m going to be 55, to lose (everything) after so many years of accumulation, it’s heartbreaking to think of. My children grew up in that house and that’s where they played in that backyard and we’re going to go back there, but it’ll just never be the same.”