Twin Lakes family devastated by firePublished 8:35am Friday, April 16, 2010
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
Stacy Morgan lost her job at ICG in December 2008.
Saturday afternoon in the time it takes to grocery shop at Niles Walmart she lost material possessions she and Dennis built in 15 years together.
Wayne Township firefighters helped them salvage priceless photographs from their burning home. “Our firefighters were great.”
The Morgans lived at 52273 Arnold at the northeast tip of Big Twin Lake. Their yard affords a good view of Karasek’s caboose, which has been restored since a fire of its own.
The other way is Morton Street, where Stacy grew up, though her family is from Bangor originally.
Both of the couple went to Kincheloe Elementary School, which their daughter now attends.
They reside with their teen son, young daughter and three big dogs – two St. Bernards and a Chesapeake bay retriever – in an enclave near where Dennis grew up with his relatives as neighbors.
Dennis works for Midwest Security Systems in St. Joseph as an alarm technician for 17 years.
The family called Baymont Inn home this week as they look for a farmhouse to rent where they can keep their pets.
Fires seem to always broke out in the middle of winter nights, but this blaze playing havoc with their lives happened last Saturday afternoon about 4 and gutted their home of 12 years.
They moved in in April 1998, Stacy said Thursday afternoon.
Dennis was at his brother’s, putting a stereo in the pontoon in preparation for summer.
He saw his sister dash across the yard, then noticed smoke, but the neighborhood already reeked of smoke with residents burning wind storm branches.
It was his Australian employer who phoned the Daily News because she knew the family needed help and he looked so “shellshocked.”
Dennis “is a very gentle, quiet man,” Stacy said. “But lately he’s been more quiet. We went to school together and had our 15th anniversary on Valentine’s Day.”
Tall son Phillip, 19, was up the street the other way with friends after shooting baskets.
He spied smoke and tried to douse flames with a garden hose after being unable to reach two fire extinguishers in the pantry.
“I came home with nowhere to put groceries,” Stacy said. “I’m not going to lie. I sped home. What’s the worst (police) can do? I could tell them to follow me, my home’s on fire. Get me home faster with an escort, then take me to jail.’ It took me 20 minutes. I was so nauseated the first two days I couldn’t eat or come near the place. Now I come here and cry because I just don’t know where to begin.”
Daughter Destiny, 7, was playing at her grandma’s.
“Luckily, none of us was actually in the house,” Stacy said. “Our dogs were in the fenced-in yard, running around like crazy, hysterical. We leashed them up” and took them to two neighbors “until we could figure out what to do with them. Dr. Frank Butts (Wayne Township assistant fire chief) is boarding them at Dowagiac Animal Hospital” on M-51 North. “They’ve been fabulous.”
“I’ve spent countless hours on the phone with insurance adjusters and salvage companies,” Stacy said. “Our kids had no clothing, but we’ve had an outpouring from the community and from our dance company,” Miss Michele.
“We’ve got enough to get her rolling, but our son has just a handful of clothes we’ve purchased in between all the chaos. Girls and moms from Miss Michele have been fabulous. Miss Linda Walker got all the girls together and everybody brought a little something for Destiny. She purchased all new dance equipment for my daughter so she could dance on Monday. She also needed new softball equipment so she could practice with her team. The community has been really good. If it wasn’t for our friends, our family, our dance company and our elementary school, which made sure she had a backpack, a jacket and school supplies when she walked in on Monday. Kincheloe Elementary’s been great.”
Destiny is a first grader. “Her first night was pretty bad,” the girl’s mother said, tearing up.
“She didn’t have her teddy bear, so she needed her dad to go to sleep. Now she has the realization it’s a total loss and she’s going to get new things, so it’s not so bad, but she misses going home. She misses her bed.
“Her room had just gotten redone this winter because she went from a baby room to a big-girl room with princess polka dots. She misses her things that are personal to her. The fire department was fabulous because they pulled our pictures off the walls and tossed them out the window to us. We were out in the yard with towels from the neighbors wiping down our pictures. We saved probably 80 percent of them.
“We have a lot of the priceless things you can’t replace, but we’re in the process of replacing the things it took us 15 years together to build up. We’re looking to rent, but nobody wants to rent to a couple with two kids and three dogs that size on a month-to-month basis. I’ve gone to the local realtors and have listings I’ve been calling, but I haven’t had a lot of spare time to call and most of them are apartments” which prohibit pets.
“I’m used to jumping out of bed in the morning and stepping on a dog,” Stacy said.
They haven’t had to worry about cooking hot meals because they are being passed around between family and friends, though they feel that goodwill will be worn out before they can put their shattered lives back together.
They imagine rebuilding in their present location, but “getting financed is going to be that much more difficult” with one paycheck instead of two.
“Our mortgage company is no longer a lending company so they want their full amount due, which leaves us with a small little bit for a down payment with credit that’s not as great as it was two years ago,” Stacy said.
“Nothing’s too small to donate,” she said. “A lot of people have been donating things. Cash donations. Gift cards. Clothing or whatever they feel they can donate. If it’s not the right sizes, I sort through and pass it on to Goodwill. Right now we don’t even know where to start. I didn’t realize it was Wednesday yesterday until my daughter said when she was getting ready for bed, ‘We missed softball practice.’ ”
The Morgans said a closet utility light apparently caused the blaze.
At the south end where the children’s bedrooms are, blue sky is visible through a new “skylight” created when the cathedral peak rekindled.
Dowagiac Fire Department assisted Wayne Township. “We had a good 20 firefighters working to put it out,” she said.
Their bedroom at the opposite end of the residence was unscathed, so a company removed their oak bedroom set, along with a grandfather clock and matching coffee table for cleaning.
“It started where power comes to the home,” Stacy said. “Over the previous four days” since tornado-like damage raked the area, “We had a lot of power surges.”
Fire spread from their son’s closet to their daughter’s closet “and when it hit that peak it hit blown insulation” and raced “the full length of the home,” she said. “In back there’s no roof. It’s not as visually bad from the road as it is from neighbors’ houses.”