She could see the black smoke rising into the sky from more than a mile away as she and her fiancée raced toward their burning Bargersville home.
Terry Mooney and Jennifer Sherman were on the way to their house Thursday morning to sift through the damage and collect the few possessions that could still be salvaged after a fire forced them and their children out of the home the night before.
On Wednesday night, lightning struck the couple’s home in the Morris Meadows subdivision, causing a fire in the attic and two upstairs bedrooms. The damage was bad, but the home wasn’t a total loss, Bargersville Fire Chief Jason Ramey said.
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Less than 12 hours later, all that changed.
Sherman started getting phone calls as the couple was headed to Bargersville from the Franklin hotel where they are staying. What was thought to be a chance to recover priceless possessions such as photos and family heirlooms turned into a second devastating wave.
This time, the fire destroyed everything.
“My neighbor called and said ‘your house is on fire. It’s a goner.’ You could see the smoke coming from our house right around (County Road) 144 and 2 Cent Road. It was sickening,” Sherman said. “I tried to remain calm for the sake of the family, trying to hold it together, but looking up the stair case and seeing the sky — it just made me so sick.”
Mooney was working on a truck in the garage Wednesday night when a bright, white flash accompanied what sounded like the biggest explosion ever, he said.
He composed himself and ran outside to confirm his fear: lightning had struck the home.
Within seconds, he could see flames spreading though the roof, he said. Mooney ran back into the home to tell his fiancée and their two daughters, but Sherman was one step ahead of him. She had heard the loud boom and ran upstairs to find smoke seeping through the ceiling, coming from the attic. She rounded up the family’s two dogs and their daughters and already was on her way out of the home, she said.
Across the street, Andrea Barger ran outside thinking lightning had struck her home.
“At first I though it was our house. Everyone on this street thought it was their house. That’s how loud the lightning strike was,” Barger said. “The minute I opened my door, though, I could see flames shooting from Jennifer and Terry’s roof. So, I ran inside and called 911.”
The Bargersville Fire Department arrived and put the fire out within about 20 minutes, Ramey said.
Mooney and Sherman and their daughters, 5 and 7 years old, were able to grab a few items on the way out of the home and shortly after the fire department put out the blaze.
A few tablets and Sherman’s purse made it out, but the family didn’t have much time for other items such as extra clothes or shoes, Sherman said.
When the fire department went through the home, they removed photos from the walls and placed them under a tarp and in totes with other possessions that were not damaged. A restoration crew then came to board up the house and the family left for the hotel where they’re staying for the next two weeks, Sherman said.
The plan on Thursday morning was to try to get more items out of the house and be optimistic about how much damage was done and how long it would take to be fixed, they said.
But shortly after 9:30 a.m. Thursday, the fire department was en route to the home, again, and this time the damage to the home’s structure was severe, Ramey said.
What exactly was smoldering is unknown, but it is believed that wind passing through the attic after the first fire ignited the second blaze, Ramey said.
On Friday, the family finally returned to the home to try to take what little possessions remained unscathed and start figuring out what to do next.
Six years ago, they were in the same situation, crammed into a hotel room and then an apartment for several months while the same home was rebuilt and restored following a fire in the garage, Sherman said.
Their daughters will resume school in two weeks when the family hopes to be transitioning to an apartment, Mooney said.
The home likely will have to be demolished and rebuilt, Sherman said. But all she can focus on for the time being is how to get a normal routine back by the time her daughters go back to school and how the family is going to get back on its feet after losing everything, she said.
“We have had a lot of people reach out. We need the necessities,” Sherman said. “It’s weird, because it didn’t hit me watching our house burn. It hit me after the fire was out. We’re stuck in a hotel, one room, two beds. I’m just trying to hold (my emotions) together.”
A Bargersville family’s home and belongings were destroyed in two fires this week.
Here’s how you can help:
Donate at a GoFundMe page set up for the family: https://www.gofundme.com/r9wvstk4
The family has already received plenty of clothing donations, but could use monetary donations or gift cards after losing everything in two fires on Wednesday and Thursday.
To help, you can also reach out to the family by emailing Jennifer Sherman at IRPGirl@yahoo.com