Officer's family returns to a twice-new house, rebuilt after fire

April 28, 1994|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Sun Staff Writer

County police Officer James K. Fredericks jokes with his colleagues that he burned down his newly built house just after Christmas because he did not like the mauve carpeting his wife, Fay, had chosen.

Yesterday, the family moved back into the house on Sonny Drive in Millersville, rebuilt just the way it was except for the carpet.

This time, Mrs. Fredericks chose green.

"It really feels strange being in this house now," said Mrs. Fredericks, 29, as she sat on the sofa in the living room. "I think we will sleep in shifts. It was so scary to wake up from a dead sleep and look out into the hallway and see that the kitchen was on fire."

The $150,000 home the family had saved for six years to build burned down in about two hours early in the morning of Dec. 28.

Officer Fredericks, 27, had cleaned out the fireplace before going to bed and put the ashes in a cardboard box that he left on the front porch. The ashes, although cool to the touch, still were hot enough to touch off the porch and a side wall. The fire spread spread swiftly onto the roof.

In a few minutes, the entire house was engulfed in flames.

The couple was alerted to the fire by a smoke detector and managed to get their sons, Kyle, 3, and Dylan, 2, out of the house. The family and a collie named Pepper emerged unscathed. Two fish and a kitten named Katie perished in the 3 a.m. blaze.

"We didn't think it was as bad as it was until we got outside," Officer Fredericks said. "When I saw our van engulfed in the flames, I knew everything was going to be gone."

The next day, after several inches of snow had fallen, Officer Fredericks and his wife began picking through the rubble.

"I found my watch encased in ice," he said. "I let it thaw out and it was still ticking."

His wedding ring, which he had left on the mantle of the fireplace, is gone forever.

But Officer Fredericks did manage to retrieve a baseball shirt he got from Memorial Stadium and several others that were encased in ice in his dresser.

Lost in the fire was his Old Mill High School baseball jacket, all of the family's Christmas presents and every piece of furniture the couple had accumulated in their 6 1/2 years of marriage.

The couple moved back into the house on Elvaton Road -- just three doors from their house -- that they had rented from Mrs. Fredericks' parents before moving to the new house in September while they waited for their house to be rebuilt.

The county Police Department began taking up a collection to help the Fredericks family. Neighbors and family pitched in and their insurance paid for the house.

Now, Officer Fredericks and his wife they say they feel lucky they got out alive, and they want to thank all of the people who helped them that night and afterward.

"So many people donated stuff to us and we don't even know who they are," Mrs. Fredericks said. "All of my family is here and we are very lucky. The whole thing made us realize how quickly things can be taken away from you."

Their house has three smoke detectors, but Officer Fredericks wonders if that is enough.

One went off during the fire, but flames went through the house so quickly, the wires of another burned before it could sound.

"Three doesn't seem like enough anymore," he said. "We have our fire extinguisher, and although that might not completely put it out, it could give us a head start."

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