NEW HARMONY – A New Harmony couple planning to have a July 18 wedding on their property, located on Harmony Point Drive, lost almost everything Thursday morning in a house fire believed to have started with the self-cleaning function on their oven.
Reports of the fire came in at about 11:40 a.m., New Harmony Fire Captain Scott Pace said. The fire began in the kitchen and spread into the attic.
“There’s a lot of damage,” Pace said. “The kitchen is pretty well totaled, and there is a lot of smoke damage through the entire house.”
With help from the Cedar City and Kanarraville fire departments, the fire was under control and out within about 30 minutes, he said. The Division of Wildlife Resources and Gold Cross Ambulance were also on the scene.
Using thermal imaging and other technology, Pace said, the New Harmony Fire District volunteers checked for hot spots and pulled sections of wall down, where necessary, to ensure the flames would not reignite.
While it will take an investigation to determine the actual cause of the fire, Pace said, there is a high likelihood the oven was the culprit, based on what he said the homeowners told him.
The self-cleaner function on the oven was turned on Thursday morning, homeowner Vickie Colvin said, in preparation for her granddaughter’s wedding in just a little over a week.
Thursday was the first time she had used that oven function since she and her husband bought the home a little over a year ago, she said.
After setting the oven cleaner, Colvin said, she joined her husband outside to clean and do yardwork. She had only been outside for a little while when she noticed the fire.
“I was halfway through power-washing right here,” she said, pointing to the driveway alongside the massive barn-type garage where the wedding is planned to take place, “when I had seen smoke just billowing out of the top (of the roof). My husband opened that (back) door, and it just hit us with black smoke.”
Despite the billowing smoke and walls that were fully engulfed in flames, Colvin said, her husband fought his way back into the house to get a cellphone so they could call for help. The house phone and all of their computers were lost in the wreckage of the fire.
“I’ve never felt so helpless in all of my life,” Colvin said with tears streaming down her cheeks.
After a few deep breaths, Colvin went on to explain that she and her husband had all the wedding food in freezers and refrigerators in the garage, which now had no electricity to power them.
In addition to the food loss concern, Colvin said, there are three families who were supposed to stay with them inside the house and about 12 more families who are planning to park their trailers and campers in the driveway and around the house during the wedding.
While moving the few wedding items that could be salvaged from the house to the barn, Colvin said she had absolutely no idea where she was going to put everyone now that the entire house has been damaged by smoke.
The basement, she said, was where the bridal party was supposed to prepare for the wedding. At this point, there is no way that will be possible.
The couple had been hard at work preparing for the wedding since at least April, Colvin said. Painting, landscaping and having a new driveway installed were just a few of the projects Colvin mentioned as she tried to take in the reality of the fire that had just taken place.
Colvin pointed out all the woodwork she had stained in an effort to make her home as beautiful as possible for the wedding. She and her husband had been working hard, she said, despite the fact that she had a full knee replacement only a few weeks ago and her husband had double hernia surgery a few weeks before that.
Inside the home, the kitchen was a charred wreckage of what had once been. Smoke damage covered the walls, water dripped from the melted remnants of the ceiling, and firemen worked to gather into garbage cans all the insulation that had dropped from the ceiling. Not a single room in the entire upper level of the house was without soot or damage of some kind.
Glass broken from the heat lay strewn across the kitchen floor, dining room and all over the front porch sitting area.
She pointed out a set of Noritake china her brother, now dead, brought with him from Japan when he came home from military service.
“There’s an entire lifetime in there,” Colvin said, bursting into tears again. “Some of it is just stuff, but some things can never be replaced.”
This is not the first disaster the Colvins have faced since they moved to New Harmony a year ago. Right around July 4, 2014, Colvin said, their entire basement was flooded from storm waters.
Because the water was “outside water,” she said, she was told by her insurance company the damages would not be covered. The recovery work from that disaster was just completed in the past few months, Colvin said.
As a result of Thursday’s fire, the home’s basement is now flooded once again by the damaged water heater, Pace said.
Though insurance coverage will provide proper after-fire cleanup and care, employees from Cedar Superior Cleaning have offered to donate time Friday for a few hours to help with wedding preparation and cleanup in whatever way possible, Cedar Superior Cleaning owner Patricia Macklin said.
Anyone interested in donating in-kind items to help the Colvin family may do so by contacting New Harmony Fire Chief Greg Gonzalez at 435-590-4012. There will be a drop-off point established at the co-op station at Exit 40, 1388 Old Highway 91, he said.
“It’s right off of the exit on the west side of the freeway,” Gonzalez said.
He asked that donors call first with one to two hours of lead time to arrange pickup of the donated items, since the co-op station is usually unmanned.
Anyone interested in donating money to help the family may contribute a check or money order that has been made out to Thayne Colvin or Vickie Colvin, Gonzalez said. Cash donations will not be accepted.
This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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