Darryl Mims stood in the doorway of what he considered his dream home, surveying the remains left by a fire that destroyed it Monday morning.
He gazed around at his roofless two-story Springlakes home Wednesday, noticing a charred dining room table with six chairs still neatly tucked under its edges.
Darryl Mims looks through the window of the Ford Expedition that caught fire in his garage. The flames spread, destroying his Springlakes home Monday.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"I won't let anybody get down," Mims said. "It's just brick and wood. It's just a house."
But it's a location that Mims and his family say they will be returning to after the outpouring of support they have received from their community since the fire.
"The people of Springlakes were a great help,'' said Mims' wife, Olivia. "I have never known people to help anyone like that. I was shocked at their reaction."
Mrs. Mims said residents of the 650-home Springlakes subdivision in Martinez have offered money, food, water, a place to stay, use of telephones and much more.
The Mimses moved into their home only two months ago. On Monday, they lived what they called a nightmare as they discovered flames coming from under the hood of their 2000 Ford Expedition, which was parked in the garage. After noticing the fire, Mr. and Mrs. Mims fled the house. Their four children were at school at the time.
Darryl Mims examines the remains of his kitchen in what he considered his dream house in Martinez. He and his wife plan to build a house on the same lot in the Springlakes subdivision. The couple and their four children are staying in an apartment.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Despite the circumstances, the Mimses said they consider themselves lucky because no one was injured in the blaze, which gutted their 3,100-square-foot, five-bedroom home, valued at more than $200,000.
"I am just thankful the kids were gone and we got out," Mrs. Mims said, adding that she will miss her sentimental possessions such as baby pictures the most. "I know I can't get that back, but I am thankful for what I have."
The couple is staying in an apartment provided by their insurance company, but they are eager to rebuild their home on the same lot.
"We're going to move back to that neighborhood,'' Mrs. Mims said. "I loved that neighborhood, and now I love it even better. They came to us like we were their family, like they had known us for years, coming from all corners of the neighborhood."
Springlakes Community Association President Joe White said word spread quickly in Springlakes about items that the Mimses needed.
"We're a large community, but we are pretty tight-knit," White said.
The American Red Cross helped the family initially with food and clothing until they settled into a hotel, said Birdie Florie, the Augusta director of the American Red Cross.
The Mims' two oldest children, Darryl Jr., 16, and Deion, 14, attend Westside High School, where teachers and administrators are discussing options to assist the family, said Tim Spivey, the school's principal.
Darryl Jr., Deion and their two younger brothers David, 8, and Derrick, 6, began the school year in Richmond County schools when the family lived on Oakland Avenue. Mrs. Mims said her children will finish out the school year in their current schools before transferring to Columbia County schools next year.
David and Derrick attend classes at A. Brian Merry Elementary School, where Principal Bob Pierson said the school is holding a collection drive for items the family might need.
"They have two children in our school, so it's a kind of a double sword for them," Pierson said. "This is a time when these families need the help. That's what we need to be here for is to give them that extra hand when they need it."
The Mimses also have received support from Olin Corp., where Mr. Mims works.
"So many people came out and gave money and kind words," Mr. Mims said. "Kind words mean more than anything."
Martinez Fire Department Chief Doug Cooper has confirmed the fire began in the garage. However, investigators from the state fire marshal's office are still investigating the cause, office spokesman Wayne Whitaker said.
"There are a number of vehicle fires every year that we work," Whitaker said. "They are not always in a house where they cause house damage. But cars do catch on fire and burn."
Mrs. Mims said she was making breakfast after taking the children to school Monday when she heard her family's SUV trying to start. When she opened the door to the garage, she said, the front end of the car was in flames.
The fire quickly spread through the home, taking firefighters more than 20 minutes to get it under control. Firefighters at first had trouble locating one of the two fire hydrants in the area because shrubbery obscured it.
"Water was never a problem," Cooper said. "But they had to look around there for the hydrant for a minute. We know where they are because they are computerized. We took some pictures of that hydrant there, and I am going to carry them up to the county officials and see if they can maybe do something about it."
The hydrant, which was in a yard a few homes away from the Mimses' home, was not the first to be camouflaged with shrubbery by homeowners, Cooper said.
As for the Mims family, they are now hoping to rejoin their neighbors.
"Something bad turned into a happy ending," Mr. Mims said. "The day we walk into our new house, that will be the happy ending."
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