According to AL.com, a fire at the 100 block of Grant Dr. in Harvest on Saturday destroyed a home belonging to multiple generations of the Benford family. Four adults and six children escape the blaze without injury.
While they were fortunate to evacuate the home unscathed, the family lost all of their personal belongings, including dozens of Christmas presents. The home was completely destroyed and is now uninhabitable.
The Harvest Volunteer Fire Department believes that a candle started the fire. Though more than 60% of kitchen fires start because of unattended cooking, the National Fire Protection Association says that candles are also a major threat to homes, accounting for $374 million in property damage per year.
The Benfords’ story immediately spread throughout the surrounding community, and Harvest residents were there to provide support before the fire was even extinguished. People arrived with clothing for the family like shoes and socks, and a nearby hotel offered them a room to stay the night.
Now, Harvest Elementary is holding a donation drive to assist the family rebound from this tragedy. They’re collecting clothes, shoes, and other necessary items, and the school’s faculty has been touched by the community’s generosity.
“Our Harvest Elementary family has rallied together over the last 24 hours to meet the needs of this family,” said Emily Scroggins, a guidance counselor at the school. “This is truly the meaning of school spirit and Christmas.”
According to local news affiliate WTVM, this fire is on the heels of a statewide announcement from the Alabama State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk. In the statement, Paulk urged Alabamians to prevent fires and get through the holiday season without tragedy.
“We’re at 84 fire fatalities in the state of Alabama now, which in many cases leads the nation, especially per capita,” Paulk said. “And that’s not a category that we want to lead the nation in. Fires are preventable. If we prevent that fire, we don’t risk a life.”
As for the Benfords, Harvest Elementary teacher Robin McConnell has also started a GoFundMe account to assist the family, which is an online fundraising resource.
Currently, the campaign has raised more than $1,500, and teachers are planning a shopping trip to provide the family with presents to exchange on Christmas.