York couple thankful for community support after house fire

YORK – “I’m going to try to say this without crying,” Jeremy Christensen said, as he tried to hold back his emotions, standing outside his family’s home. “I can’t even begin to thank everyone enough for everything, for all the support, since we had our fire. We’ll never be able to pay it all back, but we’ll sure try.”

“We will definitely work toward paying it forward, as the support has been incredible,” added his wife, Michelle.

They haven’t been able to live in their beloved 1920s home for some time now, after a vicious fire destroyed the property.

During the late-night hours of Oct. 7, the Christensen family lost their house as well as the vast majority of their belongings.

“We were actually right here,” Jeremy said, as they stood outside their charred-out garage. “We were in that back room, where I had sort of a man cave. We had just gotten home and were hanging out with some friends in there, when Michelle said she smelled smoke. I opened up the door to the garage and saw my golf cart was on fire. I ran to back out Michelle’s car, with the intent to then push the golf cart into the driveway. But by the time I got back, the golf cart was fully engulfed.”

Meanwhile, Michelle had run to the back yard to pull in a garden hose.

Jeremy said when he grabbed for the hose, the nozzle had already melted off, “that’s how hot it was and how fast it took off.”

And to make matters worse, there was a good amount of fireworks in the garage. The Christensens have always put on a fireworks show for the neighborhood each Fourth of July. But the 2023 show was cancelled because of inclement weather – that meant the fireworks were still stored in the garage.

“And when that golf cart fire took off and the fireworks caught, we had to get out of there,” Jeremy said. “It all happened so fast.”

Responding to the blaze were the York, Waco and Bradshaw Fire Departments. The aerial truck had to be brought in as the garage fire spread to the top floor of the house. And subsequently, water had to be poured through the top windows.

“What we find amazing is how the firefighters saved our photos hanging on our walls and they tried to cover items with tarps in an effort to try to save them, all the while trying to save our house and put out the fire,” Jeremy said. “Talk about going above and beyond.”

It was a cold night as the departments battled the fire which gutted the garage and burned a nearby tree. Fortunately, no neighbors’ properties were impacted and no one was hurt.

“We were so lucky we were awake,” Michelle said. “As fast as it happened, if we had all been asleep, it wouldn’t have been good.”

Jeremy said the cause of the fire has been determined to be a malfunctioning “battery maintainer” on the golfcart.

When the sun came up Oct. 8, the Christensens had to see the harsh reality of what they were dealing with.

“The house is unusable,” Jeremy said, as they walked through the rubble this week. “Every ceiling is hanging, every floor is buckled. Everything is smoke and water damaged.”

Michelle said she tried to save some items, but was warned against doing so because of the chemicals involved with fighting such an intense fire. She said she also consulted with a professional cleaning company regarding personal items, but was told they could do nothing to salvage them.

Since the fire, they have been staying at a friend’s house, as the owner recently moved and had a vacant property available. That place will work while they try to figure out what’s coming next.

“I’ve been talking with some contractors about what we can do from here,” Jeremy said. “Obviously, the garage and the back room have to be taken off. With the house, we don’t know yet if it can be fixed or if we have to tear it down and start over. The insurance adjustor has been good to work with. We haven’t seen any money yet, but thankfully Michelle had all the right insurance taken out so hopefully we will eventually have replacement funds.”

“But there is also the issue right now of how costly it is to build, as materials are high,” Michelle acknowledged. “I guess we just don’t know right now.”

They have lived in their 100-year-old house at 1130 East Avenue since 2000.

“And we have done so much work over the years,” Jeremy said, sighing. “You just can’t replace the character, which is why we bought it in the first place.”

“We were just about done redoing the kitchen,” Michelle said.

“Yep, just the counters and cupboards were left to go in and we’d have been done,” Jeremy said.

“We had been doing siding work and I complained how the siding didn’t match,” Michelle said chuckling. “Well, I said that one day and the next day it didn’t matter at all.”

“We have just loved this house for so many years, for its character and its details and we’ve tried so hard to fix it up over all this time,” Jeremy said. “But that doesn’t matter, seeing how we are all OK and no one was hurt or killed.”

“We will be fine,” Michelle said, smiling at her husband.

While that Oct. 8 sunrise brought a harsh complicated truth to their lives, it also brought a parade of concerned people to East Avenue.

“That morning already, there were so many people wanting to help. They wanted to help try to take things out or clean things up,” Jeremy said. “It was just incredible. There were people who just pulled up and said, ‘Here, we have some money for you. We just want to help.’ That was out of this world.”

Both noted how someone started a GoFundMe account “and people we don’t even know helped out. We just don’t know how to adequately say thank you.”

And then there have been benefits. Pizza Hut and Billie’s Grilled Cheese donated proceed percentages from certain days of business to the Christensens, to help them out. Most recently, the York Eagles Club donated their funds from the group’s annual chili cook-off to the family in need, totaling $8,000.

“It’s just been so . . . I can’t even find the words,” Jeremy said. “It’s so incredible how this community has supported us, in so many ways. It’s just almost unbelievable.”

“We are so grateful,” Michelle said. “Yes, it’s beyond words.”

“We knew this was a great place to be, but boy, this situation really opened our eyes even more to how much people care and how much they are willing to step up and help someone else,” Jeremy said, again trying to hold back his emotions but finally just taking a deep breath.

“You never know when something will happen to you, that will turn your life upside down,” Jeremy said. “We are just fortunate that when that happened to us, we were part of this community, in York. That’s made all the difference.”

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