Rising from ashes

Couple hopes to return home
Mar. 28, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

The fire-damaged rambling two-story and once bright blue home belonging to Don and Sylvia Kent has been declared a total loss. That word devastated the Union Mills couple this week.

They are still hoping to salvage the lower floor of the home and rebuild on the property.

The Kents stood in the back yard of their Hudlow Road home Wednesday morning talking about the fire on Feb. 24 that destroyed the top floor of their dream home. The bottom floor sustained heavy water and smoke damage, but they believe it be can restored.

Insurance adjustors have made preliminary reports and didn't give them much hope.

"But we want to rebuild," Don said. 

Late Wednesday they were still at the property waiting for a salvage company to begin start the massive clean-up.

 They will learn later this week about the total cost of rebuilding.

"We don't know yet," Don said.

The couple has been living at the Holiday Inn Express and at the Carrier Houses in Rutherfordton since they were released from the hospital. On Tuesday they checked back into the Holiday Inn where they'll stay until next week.

They will move into their rental house in Spindale after Sunday. "We didn't want them to have to move," Don said of the rental house occupants, "but we need a place to live."   

The couple moved to Rutherford County from New York about seven years ago and settled in their home. They discovered Rutherford County after visiting friends in Polk County and decided they had found the place they wanted to retire.

They do not have family in the area. Sylvia has a sister in New York and Don has a brother in Chicago.

Neighbors have been helping since the fire and have been transporting them back and forth to burns centers. 

For the first time since the fire, Don Kent began driving the car again this week. The large bandages have been removed from his badly burned fingers, but are still protected by gloves.

Sylvia also wears gloves on her hands and wears a hat to protect her face. 

The sun's rays were very bright as they stood outside. "The sun is not good for us," Sylvia said.

They were wearing extra clothing to protect their skin, especially the hands and heads.  Since the fire, they have undergone several skin graft surgeries.

Don spent the first week after the fire at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Ga. and  Sylvia was at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center's burn center. Both were flown from Union Mills to the hospitals.

Today they are both under the care of doctors at the Augusta burn center, where Sylvia underwent a skin graft just last week. 

 "Hey, we can't find one of the cats," Don said, as four other cats romped around the yard and at the couple's feet. "He is a yellow cat," Don said of the one who had not shown up. 

Don bent down to pick up the other yellow cat, Norton, while Sylvia held Dixie close to her for a few minutes. They talked with hope about their future, but some uncertainly about their home. 

"There he is,"Don exclaimed. "Ralph," he said, as the other yellow cat made his first appearance. When the fire first happened, the couple were afraid they had lost they lost all their cats. They received the burns when they went back into the house to get the animals.

The couple's neighbors have fed the cats and their two dogs, that are kept inside a fence down the street from their home.

When they move to Spindale next week, the best thing is "we get to take our animals with us . . . that's the reason we're going to the house." Sylvia said.

The couple is grateful for everything act of kindness shown them since the fire and they want everyone to know.