By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — A family that is without a home after a devastating fire during the polar vortex earlier this week is hoping to raise enough money to stay in Indiana.
The National Guard was deployed along with the Richland Township Fire Department to the blaze in the 5200 block of North County Road 350 East at 12:21 a.m on Tuesday, one of the worst hours of the storm when wind chill values were estimated as low as minus 40 degrees.
With the roads to the home impassable, the victims, who were staying warm in a van just to the south of the home, were loaded onto two Humvees and transported to the intersection of 500 North and 350 East. They were taken by ambulance to Community Hospital Anderson to be treated for exposure and smoke inhalation.
The Guard team also rescued two pets, which were taken to the Northwood Animal Clinic.
With the home reduced to ash, homeowners Don and Beth Watson and their son are living in a fire rescue home in Alexandria for two weeks. After that, they plan to stay with friends Ashley and Adam Goodnight until they get back on their feet.
How they will get back on their feet is still a mystery for the couple, though.
The Goodnights were with the Watsons the night of the fire, and Ashley Goodnight said she watched the fire grow from a small carpet fire to an inferno that engulfed the home.
"We were all asleep, then Don woke up to the smell of smoke, came downstairs and found the fire," Goodnight said. "It was small at first. Beth grabbed the extinguisher and sprayed it, but it just seemed to feed it. It just made it worse."
She said the four adults then evacuated the three children and as many pets as possible from the home and took refuge from the bitter cold in a van in the driveway. She said hardly anything exists on the lot of her friends' former home.
Beth Watson, who said she is still suffering from smoke inhalation, said she wanted to thank the staff of Community Hospital, which provided the family with coats and shoes so they wouldn't head back into the elements without protection. The staff also raised about $200 for the family.
"I just have to thank them," Watson said. "I've never seen anything like that."
For now, the family hopes to find a new home before their two weeks are up at the fire rescue house. While the Goodnights will provide them with a home after, Watson said she doesn't want to impose on her friends. The Watsons could eventually move to be with family in Ohio, but Beth said she would prefer to stay in Indiana if she can.
"I love it here," Watson said. "I'm just hoping we can stay."
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