Suzanne Williams sat on the couch of her mother’s house in Ormond Beach Thursday, twisting a rubber band between her fingers as she described watching her home burning to the ground.
“I was a mess,” she said. “You feel completely helpless watching everything you have in flames, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Her husband, Jeff Williams, sat beside her on the couch, his hand resting on her knee.
“We built that house,” Suzanne Williams said. “We cleared the lot; we built the fence. We stayed there for ten years. It was our whole life.”
Early on Monday afternoon, a fire erupted from the Williams’ shed, which spread to their home at 13 Seaman Trail East in Palm Coast and left it charred and uninhabitable.
Although the fire’s cause has yet to be determined, the Palm Coast Fire Department has identified a faulty extension cord as a possible source, the Williams said. Their insurance agent also suggested the fire could have started after certain chemicals found in fertilizers or paints mixed in their shed.
Suzanne Williams was at home with her two sons and one of their friends when the fire started. Her daughter and husband were not home, and she said she went into her kitchen to get a snack when she noticed smoke coming from the other side of her house.
For a moment, the smoke’s meaning didn’t register in her mind. But then, she ran to living room, telling everyone to get out of the house. They fled, leaving even their shoes behind in their haste.
Jeff Williams rushed home from at Houligan’s Sports Grille, where he works as a restaurant manager, when he heard his house was on fire, but he said he couldn’t believe the news until he saw the firefighters crowding his street.
“I just stared with my jaw on the ground, my heart breaking,” he said. “I just stood there, watching it burn.”
The entire Williams family and their pets escaped the fire unharmed, though most of their belongings did not.
But by the time the flames stopped hours later, Suzanne Wiliams had new sandals on her feet and bags of clothing in her hands, all brought to her by friends and neighbors.
The entire Palm Coast community, the couple said, has come together to account for the family’s needs after they lost nearly all of their possessions in the fire – and then some. The family is donating any clothing given to them that they don’t need to local causes.
“I can’t even put into words what it’s like to have so many friends and family and complete strangers come together to help us,” Jeff Williams said. “Any clothing or food or money that they had, they gave. Telling them how much we appreciate just doesn’t seem like enough to express how truly grateful we are.”
The Williams family has not yet learned what the extent of the damages incurred in the fire will be. They are currently staying in a donated timeshare in Ormond Beach before they look for a house to rent in Palm Coast.
“We don’t want to leave Palm Coast,” Jeff Williams said. “It truly is a family-style community. Your neighbors are your family.”
In the meantime, the Williams said they are trying to stay positive by spending time around family and friends.
“The fact is that the most important things in the house were saved,” Jeff Williams said. “We lost everything, but the fact that I can still go in the other room and kiss my sun is worth more than any material thing.”
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