While working at the Medora Community School Corp. superintendent’s office Thursday afternoon, Vicki Dean received a devastating phone call.
The home where she lived with her daughter, Jessica Cobb, and Cobb’s nine children, ages 5 to 16, was destroyed by a fire.
A neighbor, who drives a bus for Brownstown Central Community School Corp., was walking toward his bus when he looked over and saw the family’s two-story log home engulfed.
The home was on Old Babe Road in Washington County but had a Vallonia address. That’s just a few miles past the Jackson County line.
Besides losing their home, the family’s 15-passenger van was destroyed, and a dog inside the home died.
Fortunately, none of the 11 people were home. All of the children were at school in Salem, and Cobb was working as a special education teacher’s assistant at Brownstown Central Middle School. She has only had that job since August, Dean said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
“By the time the fire department got there, it was gone,” Dean said. “There was nothing they could do. (The fire) went up in the woods a little bit, and they got it contained. There’s nothing left, from the basement all the way up.”
Monroe Township Volunteer Fire Department in Washington County first responded to the call at approximately 1:45 p.m., Chief Max Gamble said. The department remained on the scene until 10:30 p.m. Thursday. Gamble said firefighters took a break between 7 and 8 p.m.
Gamble said the department was called back for a rekindled fire around 11:30 a.m. Friday. He said there was not an active fire when they arrived, and firefighters continued to investigate.
Driftwood and Carr township volunteer fire departments in Jackson County assisted at the scene. Driftwood Chief Clint Wolka said the department was dispatched at 1:57 p.m. Thursday and remained on the scene for about four hours.
Salem Fire Department and Washington, Gibson and Jefferson township volunteer fire departments in Washington County also assisted.
Dean said when she initially received the call about the fire, she didn’t know how severe it was.
“Actually, I thought, ‘Oh, maybe it’s not as bad as it sounds like it is,'” she said.
After she made contact with her daughter and picked her up at the middle school, they headed to the place they had called home for six years.
When they arrived, they couldn’t believe it was all gone.
“By the time we got there, she broke down,” Dean said of her daughter.
“It’s kind of a shock because I have to remind myself, ‘Hey, I don’t have another pair of shoes,'” Dean said. “Of course, you think about all of the pictures and everything that you’ve lost, and I lost all of my books. I had a lot. But I’m thankful that the kids weren’t home. I think the thankfulness that nobody was home, none of the kids, overrides the devastation.”
Losing the dog was tough, though.
“It was a great family pet we had had for a while,” Dean said.
She said the children had mixed reactions to the situation.
“One of the 8-year-olds just kind of stared, and the little 5-year-old was real concerned about all of her stuffed animals,” Dean said. “The teenagers broke down. They just were really devastated.”
Dean said she was still in shock Friday, but she realized she needs to stay strong for the kids.
“You have two choices: You give up or you go on living,” she said. “We make that choice to go on living and have a lot of faith that we will get through this. There’s no other choice.”
The family stayed with Dean’s son, who lives nearby, on Thursday night. This weekend, they plan to move into a temporary home made available by a bishop at their church, Medora Pentecostal Church.
“We’re going to make a bunk house. It takes a big house for nine kids,” Dean said. “They are setting up the beds now, so we’re just going to all stay there.”
Her granddaughter set up a GoFundMe account for people to make monetary donations. It’s at gofundme.com/family-of-11-loses-home-to-fire.
People also may stop by State Bank of Medora and donate to the Jessica Cobb Fire Fund or take donations to the school superintendent’s office.
Donations of food, clothing, bedding, furniture, dishes and other items may be dropped off at Medora Pentecostal Church.
Dean said the family immediately began receiving support from people after they found out about the fire.
“The support has been outpouring, from Salem to Medora to Brownstown,” she said. “People are just being so, so giving and tremendous. The support is totally unbelievable.”