Ypsilanti Township family struggles to rebuild after fire destroys home
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Six times over the last five years, husband and wife Sam Goble and Lisa Cole have moved their growing family from home to home.
After the sixth move in 2011, they finally sunk their savings into a permanent place to live in a double-wide trailer in the Timberland Mobile Home Park in Ypsilanti Township.
“We said ‘This is it. We can settle down here and start our family!’” Cole said.
But as of Feb. 9, the family of six — including 1-year-old twins, a 3-year old daughter and a 9-year old daughter — are homeless and struggling to rebuild.
That afternoon, Goble walked out of the bathroom and noticed something wrong in the 16-by-16-foot addition at the back of their mobile home — there was smoke, but there were no flames to be found.
But the smoke thickened and the family quickly realized a fire was burning somewhere despite the fact they couldn’t see it, and they quickly evacuated the home.
Goble and Cole went back in with a fire extinguisher, but were driven out by the smoke.
“I was trying to save my house, but realized it wasn’t going to be saved,” said Cole, who was able to grab some coats and warm clothes for her children before the smoke forced her out.
Firefighters arrived and battled the blaze, but the home was a total loss just months after the family had sunk their money into new floors, a new kitchen and a new bathroom.
“Everything was new. My husband put his heart into fixing it up,” Cole said.
Firefighters determined the blaze was started by faulty wiring in the addition. The fire, it turns out, was burning inside the walls and through the ceiling, which is why the family couldn’t initially see flames.
“I was in the bathroom and the house was actually burning down around me without me knowing,” Goble said.
Damage estimates range from $13,000 to $20,000, but the home must be demolished and removed from Timberland. A hole was ripped in the top to put out the fire in the ceiling, and all the family's belongings suffered significant smoke and water damage.
To make matters worse, the family did not have insurance, something Cole said stems from complications regarding the title to the mobile home and Timberland recently going into foreclosure.
Now, the family is unable to live under the same roof. Cole and the four children stay at her mothers’ house, while Goble stays at a friend's house several doors down from his burned home.
A neighbor the family barely knows set up a Craigslist ad asking for donations for the family, and Cole and Goble said they are grateful for the kindness of their family and strangers who have helped since the ordeal. But they have been unable to accept some items people want to donate because they have no place to put anything, though the children's school has allowed them to store some items, and the Timberland management was accepting items at one time but no longer is.
The twins, who celebrated their first birthdays on Feb. 26, sleep in cribs in Cole’s mother’s living room. Cole sleeps on the couch and the two middle daughters sleep in a bedroom.
Cole is not employed, and Goble is only employed part-time taking deliveries for a local appliance company. A new trailer at $5,000 isn’t within the budget, though they have applied for Section 8 housing assistance, there is a wait list.
Cole and Goble praised the people who have helped so far. Although they have received generous contributions of children's clothing, they still remain without basic household items that were lost.
“We aren’t able to stay together, and I feel like our whole world is crumbling; like there’s no help,” Cole said. “With our income right now it doesn’t look like there’s any place for us to go, so the biggest challenge is to put a roof over my head.”
Anyone who wants to offer assistance to the family can contact Lisa Cole at LisaCHHA09@yahoo.com.