That’s the only word Tiffanie Nichols can use to describe the devastating fire that destroyed her family’s home just minutes after they were able to escape safely. She and her husband and their three children were in the middle of a quiet Sunday afternoon at home when the fire began.
“The fire started in a back bathroom and spread quickly,” she said. “It seemed like in milliseconds it was a huge fire.”
Though her husband and oldest son tried to put it out, they had to abandon their efforts as the blaze grew out of control. While the fire was eventually extinguished through the efforts of five local fire companies, the Greenbriar Drive home the Nichols spent the past 10 years in was deemed a complete loss.
To help Nichols and her family get back on their feet, longtime friend Jeb Vetock started fundraising with a Go Fund Me page. As of Thursday, more than $5,500 had been raised by 81 people.
“When you see something like this happen you just want to help,” Vetock said. “Sometimes you just need cash to get things going.”
Vetock’s goal is to raise $10,000 for the Nichols family. He says he started the page after seeing posts by community members on Facebook who wanted to know how they could help. He was thrilled to see the interest the fundraising page generated. Within 24 hours of creating it $4,000 had been raised. As of Thursday at 11 a.m., a little over $5,500 had been raised.
“One thing we’ve always said is this is a tight knit community,” Vetock said.
Nichols said she was humbled by Vetock’s initiative and the community response.
“I’m at a loss for words,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
The money raised is expected to help Nichols replace some of the endless array of personal items lost in the fire. Though they tried to retrieve some clothes and shoes from the blackened house, wash after wash has failed to remove the stench of smoke.
“We’ve lost everything,” she said.
Nichols was particularly concerned for her children — 16-year-old Acacia, 15-year-old Aiden and 5-year-old Asher — and the effect losing their home would have on them. Strong support from the school community has helped them cope.
Nichols said that within 12 hours of the fire, Stephen Decatur High School wrestling coach Todd Martinek and his team had pooled clothing and money together to help Aiden. Acacia’s soccer team did the same for her. At Ocean City Elementary School, the guidance counselor assured Nichols that Asher would be well taken care of. She even brought him a new lunchbox and shoes.
“The support enabled the children to be empowered and feel valued enough to go to school Monday morning,” Nichols said. “The community has been amazing.”
Nichols, a landscape designer and Maryland Master Gardener, says she and her husband Robert, who works for the U.S. Forest Service, are in the process of trying to find a year-round rental for the family and their dog as they deal with the insurance company regarding the Greenbriar Drive house. Though the fire has officially been ruled an accident, Nichols said there were still numerous details to work through.
In spite of the devastating loss of her home, she has been buoyed by the outpouring of support from the community.
“We are truly overwhelmed and touched,” she said.
Anyone interested in donating can visit www.gofundme.com/yhhgfna4 or search for “Nichols Family House Fire” at www.gofundme.com.