Mar 11, 2009

Losing Everything: A Fire Story

Pictured on your left is what is left of the house that Kirk and Julie Summey once called home. Last Monday, while everyone in the family was out working or running errands, their East Toledo house caught fire and burned to the ground.

I walked in front of the house this evening and stared at the charred debris, trying to recognize the pieces that once were part of the lives of the Summeys. For the most part there was nothing salvageable, though a child's swingset and an RV out back seem to have survived.

Unfortunately for the Summeys, they did not have content insurance, and this Toledo family is starting over completely from scratch. In almost an insulting twist of fate, their insurance also did not provide for post-fire cleanup, and the Summeys were facing the prospect of paying up to $10K to clear the rubble until a neighbor stepped in and agreed to clean out the lot in exchange for the title to the soon-to-be-vacant lot.

I know Kirk and Julie through their volunteer work with Planned Pethood, and I am sad to report that although no family members were home, all five of the dogs and a litter of cats died in the fire. Three of the dogs were PPI fosters, and I cannot imagine the horror of not only seeing your house in flames and all the while knowing of the poor animals trapped inside.

Something bizarre I learned today: homeowners without content insurance actually have to pay to get the fire department to investigate a fire. Normally the insurance company will pay for the investigation so they can rule out arson as a cause, but since there is no financial incentive here, the Summeys would have to cough up about five grand to investigate their own house fire.

Strange, but even stranger is the complete lack of local media coverage on the fire and of the couple's plight.

My wife and I visited briefly with Julie Summey this evening, dropping off what we could afford to help with from the lengthy list of necessities someone emailed us. Yet even the generosity of the other folks who already donated is woefully inadequate to help a family who lost everything they owned. For the moment they have a place to live, but soon they will have to start paying rent, utilities, and begin slowly replacing the many possessions that they lost.

Donations to help Kirk and Julie are being accepted at First Federal Bank branches, and this is listed as the "Summey Family Fire Victim Fund." Here are the branches in Northwest Ohio that are participating, and if you live out of the area you can call the bank at 1-877-FOR- U1ST (367-8178) for information on electronic donations:

2760 Navarre Ave, Oregon, OH
417 W Dussel Dr, Maumee, OH
1077 Louisiana Ave, Perrysburg, OH
3234 N Holland Sylvania Rd, Toledo, OH
22020 W State Route 51, Genoa, OH
1226 W Wooster St, Bowling Green, OH

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.


Anonymous said...

My God, those people must really be hurting. I've got a FF bank near me, thanks for letting us know Mike.

Mad Jack said...

I've got a few extra bucks, but I've got to send it via money order or cash. Could you post a US Mail address?

Anonymous said...

so they have to pay 5 G's for a post fire inspection, is that true?because they don't have content ins?

historymike said...

MadJack (and other out-of-towners):

List "Summey Family Fire Victim Fund" as the recipient, then mail to:

First Federal Bank
2760 Navarre Avenue
Oregon, OH

Thanks, mister.

historymike said...

Anonymous #1:

Thank you very much for your kindness.

historymike said...

Anonymous #2:

Yes, that is my understanding of how payment for a fire investigation occurs. The Summeys were told that there would be no investigation without someone ordering and paying one, and since they have no potential for financial gain, there will be no investigation.

Tough spot, since the question "why" must be in their heads, but they are already just about broke.

Also, the building insurance they had just went to pay off the lender, and the house will not be rebuilt because it is so old. The cost of rebuilding it far exceeds its current value, at least its value before going up in flames.

Complex stuff, homeowners insurance. It would behoove everyone who reads this to take a hard look at yourpolicy. Does your policy call for the house to be rebuilt? Do you have contents coverage? Do you have cleanup coverage after a fire?

The Summeys had none of these, and the thought of possibly having to pay for the demolition of your own burned house is very strange. Admittedly, they could have just walked away and stuck the city with the bill, but the Summeys are good people, and they worked out a deal for their neighbor to do the cleanup in exchange for the small empty lot.

I think I will pause and look over my own policies now...

Mary said...

I too know the Sumney's through Planned Pethood-- and know them to be two of the kindest hearted, most giving and generous people I have ever met. I can't believe there was no media coverage on this for them.

I was not able to help them nearly as much as I would like to. Any of you reading who are in a position to help-- please know that these are GOOD people. They give of themselves not just to the animals, but to other people in need. Anything you are able to do to help them will be helping folks who never hesitate to help others.

People with hearts like Kirk and Julie's are rare indeed, and what they are going through is awful beyond my ability to put into words. Of all the people who don't deserve something like this...

It's a true tragedy. But I am thankful that they and their granddaughter are safe and physically unharmed.

Mary Torio
fellow PPI volunteer