A fire raged through Karen Hollandsworth’s home in the Woodlands on April 21, filling it with smoke as firefighters from Rapids Volunteer Fire Co. searched for and saved her pets.
The blaze destroyed the back porch of the one-story building that a retired Hollandsworth, 63, had called home for three years after she moved back to New York from Florida. She said that she feels “blessed” because many victims of fire are left with nothing and there was no loss of life at her residence.
“I have been blessed with a family that is feeding me and taking care of my animals,” Hollandsworth said. “I just heard about another fire in Niagara Falls. They literally lost everything but the clothes on their backs.”
Hollandsworth’s home was insured for fire, which started in the furnace in the backyard, and she intends to renovate and restore power and water to the dwelling with that. However, the amount of the insurance payment is uncertain at this time, and she has been accepting help, including a $500 debit card from the Red Cross, to help pay for the reconstruction.
“Once the insurance company settles the check, then I turn around and say, ‘I have x amount of dollars, what needs to be done?’ ” Hollandsworth said. “A new furnace, new appliances, new cabinets. My floors, electrical, duct work. I don’t think we’ll be able to put the back porch on because I don’t think we’ll have the funds to.”
The biggest damage is from the smoke, the scent of which is very prominent inside the home, and is what the insurance company is trying to banish before settling the amount. The new roof – that she’d installed last year – now has holes in it from where the firefighters cut it out to funnel out the smoke during the fire and make it easier to find Hollandsworth’s animals.
“I know I was hysterical because I was saying, ‘My cats, my cats!’ and I really wasn’t concerned about my house,” she said. “At the time I really wasn’t thinking that they were jeopardizing themselves coming in here.”
Hollandsworth has some tips for other homeowners. She said that it was the careful documentation of her possessions – many of which were sentimental – that will save her from being unable to rebuild.
“The biggest thing that people should realize is to go through your house. Videotape it. Even if you can’t afford a lot of insurance, just take the videos,” Hollandsworth explained as she walked through the house to a room of arts and crafts. “Like here, for instance, I’m going to get partial compensation because they aren’t all destroyed. Now, if you have video and you have pictures and you save your receipts, that’s what helps you recoup your loss. A lot of people don’t do that.”
Hollandsworth said that the Lockport community has been tremendous in helping her, especially spiritually and emotionally during this time.
There is a Gofundme fund started to help Hollandsworth at tinyurl.com/d562zk9x.