Family loses everything in fire

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By Jesef Williams

James Boone hates that all of his son's baby pictures are gone.

A fire at his Reeves Road home Sunday morning not only ruined those photos, but destroyed everything else inside.

As Boone and his live-in girlfriend, Tara Donahue, pick up the pieces, they remain puzzled about how the fire started.

Boone, Donahue and their children were away at a park picnic when the fire started about 10 a.m. Sunday. Donahue's mother called her after a neighbor on Reeves Road called 911 and got in contact with Donahue's family, telling them about the fire.

Gooches, Elgin, McDonald Green and Antioch fire departments responded to the blaze.

When Boone and Donahue arrived about 45 minutes later, firefighters were tending to the yellow house marred by water and smoke damage. The eaves were blackened from the blaze.

"It was hard to see," Boone said.

Moments earlier, firefighters doused flames that came from a window on the back side of the house, according to an incident report. The majority of the inside was badly damaged, along with the attic and roof exterior.

The two-bedroom house is a total loss, with damage estimated at $25,000, the report said.

"We thought it was going to be something small," Boone said. "It's horrible."

Boone believes the fire was accidental and that it could have started from an electrical problem with the video game, TV or radio plug-ins.

The fire started in the children's bedroom, though firefighters haven't determined a cause, said Stephen Blackwelder, spokesman for Lancaster County Emergency Management.

More than 30 firefighters were at the scene, Blackwelder said.

He said the fire was put out within three minutes. The compressed foam air system on Gooches' newly acquired truck helped douse the flames quickly.

The system uses a combination of water, air and foam that penetrates surfaces better and allows the water to absorb faster. Blackwelder said this was the first structure fire in which that department's foam system was used.

"We're beginning to see the benefits of using foam," Blackwelder said. "It was definitely a contributor to the quick knockdown."

Starting anew

Donahue has two sons, Preston, 11 and Chase, 8, and Boone has a 1-year-old son, Conner.

The five had lived in the house a little over a year. Donahue's brother owns it and was letting them rent it while he attends ECPI College of Technology in Charlotte.

Most of the furniture, which belongs to Donahue's brother, was destroyed. They lost all of their clothes, personal belongings and sentimental items, including the children's pictures.

Boone and Donahue didn't have renter's insurance. They urge people to do so.

"You can leave home and come back, and everything could be gone," Boone said.

Luckily, family, friends and people in the community have donated money, clothes and other items to help them get back on their feet.

Boone, Donahue and the children are staying at a hotel now, with hopes of moving into their own house one day.

"We're going to get by," Boone said. "It's just going to take some time."

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152