Community rallies around police chief after house fire; donations needed

Caroline and Luke Sheppard and their 10-year-old son Gage in the ruins of their home on Monday, Oct. 23.

ADDISON - Addison Police Chief Luke Sheppard strives as an emergency first responder to help others but found himself and his family overwhelmed and needing help after losing their home to fire.

The town of Addison is coming to the aid of new Police Chief Sheppard and his family, after they lost all of their possessions in a house fire while they were on vacation.

“You always want to have the ability to help someone, but when you come into a situation like this, and it’s yours, there is not much help that you can provide,” Sheppard pointed out.

The fire has displaced Sheppard’s entire immediate family, including wife Caroline and three children, daughter Peyton, 17, son Gage, 10, step-son Lance Kennedy, 15, and 18-month-old grandson Koda Tankersley, who was living with them.

The Sheppard family had left their home around 1:27 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, for a family vacation at the beach, Sheppard said.

The family checked into their hotel at 10:30 p.m. before they received a call from their home security system at 11:08 p.m. that a fire was ongoing at their residence, Sheppard recalled.

“My wife and children logged onto our security cameras and saw the fire in the living room until (the system) quit working,” he pointed out.

Sheppard immediately called dispatch, with Addison Fire Department receiving a call to respond to the blaze, he added.

Although the family stayed overnight and did not leave until the following morning, it was quite a restless night as the family knew they would not have a home when they returned, Sheppard indicated.

“So much was going through my mind,” he said. “At that point, you just get overwhelmed. You don’t know what to expect...You think about all of your personal possessions that have passed on through the family, from your grandparents.

“You think about the loss that your children are suffering, and the material things they hold close to them that they are worried about,” Sheppard continued.

One thing that Sheppard did not have to worry about was the safety of his family, for they were all there together, he added.

“That was the biggest thing, yes, sir,” he said.

The family headed out for home the following morning around 7 a.m, Sheppard said. “It was a long drive home, I can promise you that,” he said.

Once the family arrived home, Sheppard described the feeling as overwhelming. “It was devastating,” he said.

The Arley Fire Department responded to give assistance to the initially responding Addison department.

The Arley department responded with two units. “They had the door open. You could see fire inside the house,” Arley Fire Chief James Rickett said. “From what I saw, it was pretty well engulfed (in fire) on the inside.

“The worst of it was in the living room. There was a couch burning. They  drug the couch out, and we wet it down for them and (also) a wood space heater (that) was on fire,” Rickett added.

The couch, Rickett explained, was removed in order to give more room for firefighters to work in battling the blaze.

The space heater, Rickett pointed out, had been located near the couch and was also brought outside where Arley applied water to it.

A electrical cord on a space heater left plugged into the wall was believed to have caused the fire, according to Sheppard.

A rekindle of the blaze brought the Addison department back to the residence around noon, on Friday, Oct. 20,  to extinguish yet again, according to Sheppard.

The fire has also cost the Sheppards a portion of their livelihood, destroying the T-shirt factory that Caroline used in the home.

“I have a full time job, but  I do that on the side as well,” Caroline said.

Caroline noted the family was overwhelmed by all of the love and support they have received.

“We are very blessed with friends, family,” Caroline said. “Work families have been very supportive.”

“The churches and the community, the police department and the sheriff’s office have been phenomenal,” Sheppard added. “The abundance of donations, from clothes to shoes to money, has been  a blessing.”

To make donations to help this family get back on their feet,  please contact Kayla Wood at 256-339-3556, Heather Denson at 256-620-6362 or Jamie Ergle at 205-272-0974.

Major relief effort underway
Wood, who along with Denson and Ergle is organizing a major relief effort for the Sheppard family, stressed that donations are being dropped off at the Addison Municipal Building, Highway 278, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every day through the end of this week.

“They are in need of everything. They have lost everything,” Wood stressed. “We have had a lot of help from the community so far, and we have had a lot of people donate furniture...As far as big furniture, we are no longer in need of those items.”

However, the Sheppard family is still in desperate need of clothing as well as personal items and toys for the smaller children, Wood pointed out.

“We just want to thank the community, because without the community’s help, we would still be in search of numerous items,” Wood pointed out.

“...As far as like board games and just family entertainment stuff, along with toiletries and clothing and shoes, all that stuff is still in need,” she added.

Currently, the Sheppards are staying with family members in the fire’s aftermath. “They have been offered a home right here in Addison...They are letting them stay there rent free,” said Wood. “That was a very big blessing.”

Addison Mayor Marsha Pigg commended the town for rallying around one of their own and a town employee.

“We are all coming together to help them in any way we can,” Pigg said. “Our community is like family, and everyone comes together when someone is in need.”

House fire season begins now
This week, the coldest weather so far this season is moving in, so people will be ramping up use of heaters and fireplaces--which creates a higher risk of structure fires, firefighters stressed.

“House burning season is on us right now,” Rickett warned.

“Never leave a phone charger plugged up...They will overheat and they will literally catch on fire,” Rickett further reminded. “I know of two house (fires) that we did, where it was phone chargers...They will get hot enough to catch on fire.”

Rickett urged residents to please unplug space heaters and other electrical objects when they leave home to decrease any fire hazards.

“If you are not using a space heater, it needs to be unplugged,” Rickett stressed. “And it does not need to be near a curtain or couches or furniture.

“This is the time house fires start,” he stressed. “This is the season right now when they start. That is what’s going happen.

“If they are doing a wood fire, they need to get their chimneys cleaned out,” Rickett pointed out. “If they don’t clean them out, they will have a chimney fire that will burn a house to the ground.”

Family in need of clothing
The family is desperately in need of clothing, with the following sizes posted for the family, including the children: men’s shirts, X-large; men’s pants, 36x32; men’s sweatpants, large; men’s shorts, medium; men’s shoes, 7, 10 and 11; men’s underwear,  large and extra large; women’s shirts, 3XL and medium; women's pants, 18 and 3; women’s leggings, 2X and medium; women’s shoes, 8 and 8 1/2; boys' shirts sizes 14 and 16 XL; 14 husky jeans; boy's 14/16 shorts and sweatpants; boy’s underwear, 10; boy's 2T clothing; size six toddler shoes and size 5 Luvs diapers.

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