published: Friday, February 01, 2013
Fire destroys almost everything
roxanne brown | Staff Writer
A fire in a Leesburg home has left a family with just their lives and the clothes on their backs.
Everything else was lost.
"On Saturday morning after 2 a.m. sometime, we were all sleeping and my 2-year-old woke up and was asking for milk," said Brittany Banks. "I put him back to sleep and went back to bed myself, but something made me get back up. I saw a little tiny fire at first in the utility room behind the kitchen and immediately grabbed both babies."
"I called for Chris (Anderson) and he told us to get out of the house so he could put it out. He started trying to put the fire out and I went to leave but when I looked back, the whole back of the house was on fire."
Banks said several neighbors came to their aid. One called 911 while another went to the store and purchased a can of baby formula.
According to a fire report, the blaze caused $60,000 in damage to the house at 206 N. Chester St., while the family's belongings were estimated at about $25,000.
The young couple, who had signed a lease to rent the property less than a week ago, had not purchased renter's insurance. Banks said as far as she knows, the owner of the house had no insurance either.
Because of that, friends and co-workers from Chris' previous job at the Elite Car Wash in Clermont have banded together to help the family.
"We were watching as our house burned down and we couldn't even move our car because the keys were in the house," Banks said. "We watched our car burn up, too, and there was nothing we could do but stand there. I know I was crying but even Chris was crying and he never does that," she said. "When we went back the next day to see what was left, all we could see was just black.
"Everything was full of mud and tar and there was not even structures or any remnants of what we had."
According to Anderson, they lost "literally everything," including both babies' clothes, toys, diapers, food, books and bedding.
In addition, three or four months worth of WIC checks also were lost and, according to Banks, cannot be replaced according to the agency's lost or stolen policy.
"So now, we have no formula for the baby, which is scary," Banks said.
With no immediate family in the area, the couple has another dilemma on their hands, since they have no place to stay after Thursday, which is the last day of hotel assistance they received from the Red Cross.
"I'm kind of scared," Anderson said. "I mean we don't have anything and I don't know where we are going to live right now. I also am going to lose my job if I don't get it together before Friday but I don't know if I can get all this done and find us a place before then."
As of Tuesday, Banks said they have been looking for places to rent, but none so far are available for immediate move in or are too expensive because of the up-front money needed for deposits.
Princess Braue, the owner of Elite Carwash in Clermont, said everyone there wants to help.
To do that, Braue us asking that people visit the car wash to drop off donations consisting of non-perishable food items, household items, clothes, grocery store gift cards, diapers, baby supplies, items and toys to help the family.
Braue said she is offering a free exterior car wash through Feb. 15 for anyone who drops off any donation for the family.
"Chris worked at Elite for more than six years, so he's part of the family there," she said. "We want to see if we can't help his family a little bit, so we're asking the community to come together and get them some of the things they need. I can't stand to know they have nothing."
The car wash is at 1230 Oakley Seaver Drive in Clermont.
"We are so grateful. We were not expecting this but we just want to say thank you for everybody trying to help us, especially our children," Banks said of the car wash's efforts. "We were really upset at first and we still are, but we're trying to take it day by day. It really helps to know we're not alone."
For more information, call the car wash at 352-404-6973 or Chris Anderson at 352-460-6081.