By Mac Christie, Times-Advocate Staff
ST. JOSEPH – It all started at 11 a.m. July 25.
Carrie Hohner was upstairs in her Main Street Zurich home when the smoke detector in the basement began to go off.
She went downstairs to find her basement full of white smoke.
She quickly took her two children, Chloe, 9, and Landon, 4, to the neighbour, called 911 and went back for her camera and the family’s two cats.
But when she got back to the house it was so full of black smoke she had to leave.
The cats didn’t make it out.
“Everything was lost,” she told the Times-Advocate last week, “which was OK, because we’re safe, but we’ve been living place to place.”
Hohner and her husband Dave, who works at Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton and wasn’t home for the fire, praised the prompt response of the local fire departments.
But despite the response the fire, which started from an electrical cord in the basement, destroyed the home’s basement and left the rest of the house with smoke damage.
“The whole basement is charred,” said Carrie. “To me, that’s the worst part because that’s where the family room was.”
But while the family escaped with their health, they then had to deal with their insurance company.
Originally, Dave said, the family was hoping their house could be restored.
“We were all about a restore,” he said. “It’s our home, we want it.”
But the more the Hohners talked to friends, the more they thought tearing the house down might be better.
“The kids, they have asthma, they have allergies and they’re always sick to begin with,” said Carrie. “I’m not going back into that house, it’s gross.”
The fire department had to break the upstairs windows to allow the smoke to escape, said Carrie, and the house has since been sitting empty for eight weeks, smoke damaged and molding.
Three weeks into the process the Hohners were told the house was going to be torn down and rebuilt. But two weeks ago they got a call that their adjuster had been let go and they were starting at square one.
“We really have no idea,” said Carrie.
Since the fire the Hohners stayed with friends, before finding a house to rent in St. Joseph.
Through it all, they said the community support has been amazing.
“People we don’t even know bring in clothes, food,” said Dave.
The night after the fire the family had to go out to eat because they had nothing, Carrie explained.
“We came back and there were three garbage bags of clothes for us,” she said. “It’s just been amazing.
“It’s emotionally hard on us and the kids too,” she continued. “But without the community, I don’t know. I think I’d lose my mind.”
The Hohners went back into the house after the fire to get their clothes, which were professionally cleaned. However, they came back still smelling of smoke.
While the clothes have been sent for cleaning again, the family has had to depend on donations for clothes and other necessities.
“It’s unbelievable how much money it costs just to get your necessities,” Dave noted.
Carrie added it’s hard to have to depend on other people.
“That’s something we’ve struggled with,” Dave agreed, noting over time they’ve realized they need the donations.
“We’ve gone through stages where it’s like, ‘I hate taking stuff, there’s people in worse need than us.’ Then there’s other times where it’s like, ‘What are we going to do this week?’”
The family’s friends have also set up a fund at the Bank of Montreal (BMO) in Hensall.
Jodi Erb-Weigand, who started the fund, said she did it because she thought they needed some extra help.
“They’re very humble about it so it was hard for them to even do it,” she said of the Hohners. “But I know that if it happened to me they would be there in a heartbeat trying to do anything they could for their friends. I just want to make sure that everybody’s there to help them too.”
Although the ordeal has been difficult for the children, Carrie said it helps that both are now back to school.
“We try not to dwell on it too much, because they pick up on so much,” she added.
She noted Landon originally wouldn’t wear the donated clothes.
He was like, ‘I want my clothes, I don’t care if they’re burnt,’” Carrie explained. “But it’s better now.”
However Dave said Landon will still bring it up randomly.
“Everything’s going fine and he’ll come out with, ‘My house burnt down,’” he said with a laugh. “They both bring up the cats and their stuff, they’re still hurting.”
Still, the Hohners are worried what insurance may decide.
“We’re under-insured for a rebuild or a restore,” Carrie admitted. “Either way I think it’s going to be easier for them to rebuild.
“We’re nervous to hear what they’re going to say.”
To make a donation to the Hohners the money can be given to Jodi Erb-Weigand or visit the BMO in Hensall and indicate the donation is for Dave and Carrie Hohner.