A family of six was displaced on Friday morning when a fire gutted the three bedroom, two bath home they were renting. Fortunately, nobody was injured; however, of their four animals, only two made it out with them, one perished in the fire under a bed, and the other could not be found, according to Ariel Kharrl, one of the residents.
Ontario Fire Department got the call at about 10:18 a.m. and when they arrived at 10:24 it was fully engulfed, according to Chief Terry Leighton. In addition to allocating 14 firefighters, three engines, the chief’s vehicle, Rescue 1 and a shuttle, Ontario Fire received mutual aid from Fruitland Fire Department which provided an engine and officer in a command vehicle.
The fire was deemed under control at 11:28 a.m.
After investigations by Leighton, the state fire marshal and an insurance investigator for the property owners, nobody was able to determine the exact ignition source.
Bruce Sumrall says his brother noticed a couch in the bedroom was on fire, which is consistent with the ignition point, the chief said. However, they can’t determine if it was from a computer or cigarette as old cigarette butts were found, according to Leighton.
Fundraising for the family
Kharrl has a 4-year-old and is also expecting another child. As such, her best friend, Estee Morrissey has sprung into action for the family, setting up a GoFundMe page and reaching out to the online community for donations.
The fundraising is going well, according to Morrissey.
“The minute she told me, I just posted about it on my Facebook page — we have a lot of mutual friends and family,” she said.
That, along with the GoFundMe page and online classified pages provided an extra boost with a lot of people wanting to donate.
“I’m really shocked and amazed at how much the community has helped out,” she said. “I’m so grateful we still have caring people.”
The outpouring of donations, such as furniture, beds and clothing, has been so much that Morrissey was planning to rent a storage shed on Saturday so that people could deliver items during a couple time slots today.
“She is my best friend. She just lost everything,” Morrisey said of Kharrl. “I do not have the money to help, so I’m trying to help in any way that I can.”
Other people have also stepped up to help the family, according to Kharrl, including Billy Carter, one of her brother Sumrall’s favorite teachers at Bridges Academy. Carter is also part of a fireman liaison group, Kharrl said, and delivered the family coats and breakfast.
She said when the fire happened, they reacted so fast she didn’t think to grab her purse. However, she said she is a “very routine person,” and knew exactly where it was. As such, she described this to Ontario Fire Chief Terry Leighton, who went into retrieve it and walked out with a pile of burnt material that did not resemble a purse. After setting it down on the road near the back of the fire truck, he opened it up and there was Kharrl’s walled mostly unscathed.
She erupted in cheers and ran over to Leighton, giving him a bear hug and saying “Thank you, thank you,” to which the chief responded with a wide smile.
In a phone interview on Saturday when asked whether it was common to get a hug like that, the chief said it was not, but that moments like those, including delivering babies or arriving moments too late but cutting the cord from the placenta are “highlights of the career.”
“Those are calls you remember for life,” he said.
Kharrl expressed her appreciation to the firefighters and the chief again on Saturday during a phone interview saying she was so happy to have her ID and Social Security Card.
“It was really nice for them to search and find something,” Kharrl said. “You don’t realize it but those cards are your life. They make you who you are, and without them, you can’t do anything, really.”
For now, the family is safe and sound, staying with someone they know and picking up the pieces little by little. She said their brains have “been in shock” trying to take it all in.
“We don’t have silverware,” Kharrl said. “You need silverware.”