Monday, December 22, 2014

Family surprised by fire vows to salvage Main Street home

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 2/28/2014

She had always wanted a big front porch, Lori Kelley said.

Now, Kelley said, she’s not sure she will ever get that dream-come-true front porch back.

She had always wanted a big front porch, Lori Kelley said.

Now, Kelley said, she’s not sure she will ever get that dream-come-true front porch back.

The Kelleys’ home, 800 S. Main St., Ottawa, was engulfed in flames Wednesday night. Kelley, along with her husband, Jeff, and their four children, ages 3 to 8, and two dogs were all home when the fire began, she said.

“We were all downstairs ... and it started getting a little smoky, and so I turned the gas fireplace off and opened the door to get the smoke out,” she said. “I saw smoke on Main Street and looked up, and it was like a lot of smoke coming out of the top of our house so I ran into the house, screaming ‘Fire! Fire!’ and got the kids and dogs out.”

It was an electrical fire that started behind a wall on the main floor, Jeff Carner, chief at the Ottawa Fire Department, said.

“The house sustained substantial damage and a partial roof collapse,” Carner said. “There’s damage throughout the home. It started on the first floor, spread vertically and horizontally across the floor and reached into the attic area relatively quickly.”

Recent renovations, the age of the home and other factors played into the difficulty in battling the flames, Carner said.

The second floor is a complete loss, Kelley said, but the family plans to rebuild.

“We’re working with our contractor, and he’s trying to figure out what is possible given what’s left,” Kelley said. “Our plan is to rebuild and save as much as we can. Like the walls and plaster is going to have to be gone, but we’re trying to figure out how we can save as much of the woodwork and old stuff as we can.”

The family purchased the circa-1905 home in February 2013, she said, after they’d fallen in love with its spacious front porch, open floor plan and old, historic charm.

“We’d been renovating [the house] and moved in, in July,” she said. “We would like to rebuild and be able to salvage the things we loved about that house that made it so beautiful, like the front porch — I’m really hoping to save that. Some of the woodwork inside, we loved it because it was a historical home. That’s the saddest thing about it.”

The family had been in the process of renovations, Kelley said, and seeing all their hard work go up in flames was devastating.

“It’s sad,” she said. “We loved that house, and we had worked and stripped the woodwork in the house and put a lot of our own work into it. We hired a lot but we had really worked on the house, and to see all that go up in smoke is very sad.”

The Kelleys have plenty of family and friends in Ottawa, she said, who have been more than generous by dropping off clothes and food and taking care of the children. The Ottawa Fire Department also has been very helpful through the whole ordeal, she added.

“We have a lot of family around that are being very supportive and the best neighbors in town,” she said. “Our kids stayed and went to their house to keep warm, and they kept them entertained with popcorn and movies. We’re staying with my mother, and we’re fine.”

The family made it out with just the clothes on their backs, and she’s grateful for everyone’s safety, Kelley said, but one beloved stuffed animal wasn’t so lucky,

“The little ones don’t understand — they keep asking about their toys and stuffed animals,” she said. “This morning my sister bought my 4-year-old daughter a new stuffed animal because she had a special one called ‘Big Baby’ and we know it was burned up. My sister brought her a new big dog and she smiled and said ‘Look Mommy, I have a new baby, and this one isn’t on fire.’”

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