August 11, 2014
A family of six is starting to piece things back together after a fire took away their home and most of their possessions last week.
The family is living at the Days Inn in Charlottesville while they look for a new place to live. Meanwhile, donations of clothing and money have been streaming in since the fire.
But some of the things cannot be replaced.
"There's this big huge stuffed animal," said Shawna Dibble, age 10. "It's a duck and I wish I had that. I slept with him every night."
Shawna, her older sister and her younger brother were all outside when the fire started Thursday night.
Their mother, Ruth Buschmann, was inside with her youngest son.
"He looked in my room and said, 'Mama, fire!'" Buschmann said. "I looked in the room. A keyboard was on the floor, with flames two feet in the air."
Buschmann tried to smother the flames with a blanket, but thick smoke quickly filled the room. So she took her son and got out.
"I just ran out and I didn't go back in," Buschmann said. "A few seconds later, flames were coming out of my bedroom window."
The rest of the family was relieved to see their mother and brother safely join them outside.
"I was in tears all the way down there," Shawna said. "Then I stopped for a minute because I saw that they were ok."
Firefighters took about 15 minutes to put out the flames. They say the fire was contained to the bedroom, but all other rooms in the house have significant smoke damage.
Four days after the fire, a significant pile of charred clothing and other possessions sits outside the bedroom window.
"We've lost everything we've ever had, pretty much," Buschmann said.
The family does not have insurance to cover their losses, but community members have stepped in to make sure the children will have clothing as they prepare to return to school next week. The American Red Cross and the Charlottesville Fire Department helped the family pay for a few nights in the hotel.
Now The City of Promise has launched a fundraiser to help. First Baptist Church on West Main Street is also accepting donations of clothing and other items for the family.
"The response has been overwhelming," Buschmann said. "I've had calls all day with people having things for me. I'm actually happy. I'm able to smile because I've been shown so much love."
Buschmann says the thing she will miss the most are the photo albums.
Her next priority is finding a new place to rent that will allow the children to continue attending Venable Elementary.