Feelings of loss still smolder months later
House fires often are impactful in the moment for communities, but for fire victims the loss is one they have to live with long after the smoke clears.
“You don’t think straight for quite a while after,” Elaine Delk said. “You’re just kind of dazed like, ‘What do I have to do now?’ It takes a long time to even start to come back.”
Delk and her husband, James, lost their rural Hillsboro home to a fire five months ago. Recovery remains a work in progress.
“It’s taken a while,” she said. “It’s the little things you miss, like ‘OK, I don’t have this thing anymore.’ It’s just hard. It’s really hard.”
For Sherry King, who lost her Hillsboro home in a fire two months ago, the loss took time to rationalize.
“It’s finally setting in with us, you know, everything that’s happened,” King said. “I guess when it’s all over is when it becomes overwhelming. We’ve been really busy, and I don’t really know how to put it into words.”
A house fire’s toll extends beyond losing a place to live.
King’s sons were the only two around when a house the family was renting caught fire in June.
The only thing that could be rescued was one of their dogs. Their other dog, Diesel, couldn’t be saved.
Despite being five months removed, Delk finds it difficult to believe that 70 years of memories now are gone.
“You can replace blankets,” she said. “You can’t replace your kids’ baby books, your baby book, and your annuals from high school. You just can’t replace those things.”
Delk and her husband were able to grab a few items while escaping their March house fire, but she said it wasn’t something on their minds at the time.
“You don’t think much,” she said. “You just get some clothes on and out you go.”
One item Delk did save was a large painting that had been in her family for generations.
The couple lived out of a motel the first month after losing their home and has rented a home in Hillsboro since April.
“We don’t like living in town because we’re both country,” Delk said. “We miss that part.”
They plan to move out of town once their new house is assembled. Instead of using a wooden frame the new house will be built out of metal, which they think will be more economically friendly.