Fire in Murray Cottage - How You Can Help
The evening of Thursday, March 25th, was nothing notable and, in fact, was rather normal and routine. The kitchen was cleaned up, homework was completed, the last of the laundry was taken care of, and all were headed to bed.
As “good night” and “sweet dreams” well wishes were being shared all around, the loaded dishwasher was set to come on about the time the lights were being turned off for the evening. Everything seemed perfectly normal.
By midnight the scene had changed drastically. That is when houseparent Andrew Hernandez woke up to screeching smoke alarms and the smell of smoke. Andrew jumped out of bed to check out the source of the smoke and found it in the kitchen coming from the dishwasher. While his wife, Darlene, got the kids up and out to safety, Andrew used the fire extinguisher to fight the blaze. It was too much for the fire extinguisher, and the Lubbock Fire Department was summoned.
The firefighters arrived within just a very few minutes and took over the fire fighting. They had the blaze under control by about 2:00 AM but stayed on to make sure there was no possibility for smoldering material to re-ignite later in the morning. By the time the firefighters left, about 3:30 AM, the fire was completely extinguished, and it left behind a completely destroyed kitchen and a house with severe heat and smoke damage throughout.
It is a scary thing to wake up from a deep sleep to the sound of a fire alarm and the smell of smoke – especially when you are responsible for the lives of children living in your cottage. And for our boys and girls, even those who were not in the fire-damaged cottage, it has been frightening to know that The Children’s Home of Lubbock, the first safe place they have been in their short lives
, is yet vulnerable to something as frightening and horrific as a fire.
There are several things we are thankful for:
First and foremost, no one was injured.
Second, we have great staff who put the children’s safety first and followed all the emergency protocol exactly as they had been trained. Andrew and Darlene Hernandez acted promptly and with precision to check out the fire and evacuate the girls from the cottage that fateful night.
Third, we are thankful for the forward-thinking of the Children’s Home’s early leaders. They built cottages that can survive the wear and tear that large numbers of children impose on a building...the constant high winds and other West Texas weather phenomena...and even fires. A lesser built house might not have survived nearly as well as Murray Cottage did.
Finally, we are thankful for the many ways our supporters have called, written, e-mailed and otherwise checked to be sure everyone was okay and to find out the progress of the renovation process. The cottage will soon be completely restored to its original capacity.
The kids and staff are back in the cottage, using a makeshift kitchen in the laundry room until the kitchen is completely rebuilt. But, as you might expect, insurance did not cover all the expenses of the cottage restoration (although to be fair, we have made the decision to replace some of the materials with a more durable quality, and some of the furniture was old enough that it made better sense to replace it rather than have it cleaned and put back into service.) These added costs, along with the insurance deductible and the difference in the allowable costs and the actual replacement costs, leave us with a deficit on the cottage restoration of $38,784.
But the fire also brought to light a glaring inadequacy at The Children’s Home. We have discovered that our campus is not up to city fire code on fire hydrant location and availability. In the mid 1980’s when city water and sewer service was added to the campus, two fire hydrants were installed. This met the existing fire safety code — but that was 25 years ago. To meet the current city fire safety codes, we must
1) install 2,856 feet of dedicated 8" water line around the perimeter of the campus.
2) re-locate the two existing fire hydrants and
3) install three additional fire hydrants.
(There needs to be a fire hydrant within 500 feet of any point on campus.)
The estimated cost for extending the water line and installing the new fire hydrants will be about $85,000. Our already tight budget cannot accommodate these added expenses without your help! And of course, we come to you for that help.
You have always cared for our youngsters, praying for them and sharing your resources to make sure they had enough food, a warm place to sleep at night, and appropriate clothing to wear, as well as the therapy they need to overcome the scars of their pasts. This most basic need — to be sure that their home can be saved from fire — is not one we like to think about. All children deserve to be safe. They need to rest easy in the assurance that they will be cared for and that they will be safe in an emergency such as a fire.
Your gift to help us complete the restoration of Murray Cottage and to update our fire hydrant accessibility is truly a gift to the children — the gift of safety. With the slow-down in construction in the Lubbock area, now is a great time to move forward with these projects for the best price possible. Please let us hear from you as soon as you decide what you can do to help.