Starting from scratch

Published 8:56pm Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A local family could use some Christmas cheer and good will from men this year after losing their home to fire Friday night.

David Rutherford and his 17-year-old daughter Ashley are still counting their blessings because neither was home Friday night when a fire destroyed their home.

But the Atmore family still lost everything they owned in the blaze and are now starting the tedious process of trying to rebuild both their home and their lives.

Tuesday morning the rubble left in the fire’s wake was still smoldering as another of David’s children, Denise Rutherford-Rowell, walked the perimeter of where the home once stood only days earlier. As she picked charred pieces of her father’s gun collection from the debris, Denise said her family was not able to recover any of their possessions.

“I got a call from Dad at about 9 p.m.,” Denise said. “He was in Mobile and he just said ‘my house is on fire.’”

Denise said she immediately went to the site on Ewing Drive, just off Jack Springs Road, where the home was already fully engulfed by flames. Units from the Poarch Fire Department responded, but were delayed by limited road access to the home.

When the smoke cleared the entire home was destroyed.

“We have family here and dad has a place to stay, but it’s tough because all they have are the clothes they had on,” Denise said.

Despite the complete destruction of the home, Denise said the family has already gotten some help from local residents and businesses.

“Just for Kids donated two school uniforms and a jacket to Ashley yesterday and Central Farm (Supply) donated some feed,” she said. “He has two horses and four dogs.”

Denise said none of the animals were harmed by the fire, but they still have to be fed and are still being kept on the property.
Denise said the family is now looking ahead to whatever their next step might be.

“Dad works for the state of Florida so he’s back at work and Ashley’s back at school. But now it’s tough when you think about trying to rebuild. He had insurance, but none that would cover rebuilding. It’s tough to be 51 or 52 and have to start from scratch.”

As for how the fire began, Denise said the state Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating, but she added that arson is a real possibility.

“That was not there when he left that night,” Denise said pointing to a ladder fused to the remainder of the home’s frame.

“That’s the bathroom window,” she said. “It’s about ten feet off the ground. And nothing was on inside but a lamp that’s always on.”

Regardless of  how the fire started, Denise said her family has had to move on quickly and try to return to their day-to-day lives, but are also very thankful for the community’s support.

“It seems like these things always happen around the holidays,” she said.

In order to help the Rutherford family through donations, monetary or otherwise, calls may be directed to Denise at (251) 282-9602. She may also be reached by email at

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