In a matter of only a few seconds, Kristy Faraj's life was dramatically changed.
Kristy Faraj (left) shows her friend Christi Skarosi the bandage on her arm where she was burned in the fire that destroyed her family's home. She and her children have moved in with the Skarosis.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"Our lives were finally getting back to where we wanted it," said the Martinez mother of two boys, Alex, 2, and Brandon, 8.
On Oct. 1, Faraj's home was badly damaged by a fire, leaving her and her sons without a home and all of her home's contents damaged by fire or smoke.
Now the community, including a Martinez school, is reaching out to get Faraj and her family back on their feet.
"People have been sending in clothes and gift cards and different kinds of things for the family that we've been giving to them," said Donna Hickmon, a secretary for Stevens Creek Elementary School. Hickmon said her school's principal, Michelle Paschal, and Jennifer Contant, Brandon's second-grade teacher, organized the fund-raiser for the family. The idea was for pupils, faculty and staff to pay $1 to wear pajamas to school this past Friday.
In addition to the fund-raiser, Faraj said Contant held a birthday party at school for Brandon, who was unable to celebrate his birthday Oct. 3 because he lost all of his presents in the fire.
The fund-raiser reiterates a message the school is trying to teach, Hickmon said.
"The message we're trying to send is that it's good to be helpful to others and to take care of the community," she said.
Neighbors in the Watervale subdivision also have collected money, toiletries, clothes, toys and other items for the family.
"I'm very thankful to everybody who has been helping me," Faraj said. "It's amazing. It's unbelievable how many people come out to help you."
Faraj said the fire, which occurred in the 200 block of Watervale Drive, occurred after her son Alex snuck into the home's garage to chase his pet kittens. In the process, she said, a 5-gallon gas can was knocked down. Fire officials said the vapors from the gas were ignited by a flame from a nearby water heater.
"When I walked away to get something to clean (the gas) up with, it exploded like a big bomb and I fell down. I've never seen anything like it."
Trying to prevent another explosion, Faraj said, she moved her car out of the garage. By then, she said, the entire garage was engulfed in flames and her children were still inside the house.
"I heard my children crying and screaming," she said. "My mother instincts kicked in, and I had to go back (inside to get them). I grabbed my purse and kids, and we ran out of the front door. I attempted to go back inside to get the mother cat and her kittens, but the neighbors told me they all escaped.''
A couple of days later, Faraj said the mother cat and a kitten were found dead upstairs.
Faraj and her children have been staying with her friends, Jason and Christi Skarosi at their house in Hephzibah. Faraj says she's in good health, despite the second- and third-degree burns on her left forearm and left toes.
Her personal items were unusable after the fire.
"All of my new furniture is ruined," she said. "Everything is covered in smoke and soot. I was told my house will basically have to be rebuilt. This has definitely changed the way we've been living."
Anyone interested in donating gift cards or monetary donations can do so at the following locations: Augusta Metro Credit Union, 2338 Lumpkin Road, Augusta; the Skarosis' residence, 3507 Reins Court, Hephzibah. Donors also may call Janet Cawley at 868-1920.
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