Searching for a fresh start

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Family looks to rebuild after fire destroys home

By Brandon Mattingly

A family of seven is being forced to start over after a fire took their home a little over a week ago. Ashley Simms and her six children escaped last Saturday’s blaze at their home at 456 Rosary Heights in Springfield without injury, but she said the entire ordeal has been “an actual nightmare.”

“It’s been crazy because I have three kids with me at my mother’s house and my other three are staying with my dad, so it’s hard all being split up right now,” she said.

Though investigators haven’t stated a cause of the fire that started around 8:23 p.m., Simms said she first saw flames near an electrical box located in the kitchen. She recalled how quickly the fire got out of control.

“As I’m running out the door, I’m shoving kids out the door and I think it was within three minutes of getting out that door that it was on fire all the way to the living room,” Simms said.

Simms said it was fortunate that the children’s father, Rodrick Smalley, was visiting at the time and was the first to notice the smell of something burning.

“Thank God he was there and found it or we wouldn’t have made it out,” she said.

Simms noted that four of the children were in the house at the time of the fire, while two were on the trampoline in the back yard. In the chaos, everyone was able to get to safety, but very few belongings were able to be retrieved. Among the only items to survive the fire were a few family photographs and a copy of the Bible. Even with all that was lost, if the fire had occurred only a short time later, the result could have been even worse.

“If it had been 9:00, we would have all been in bed and then there was no way out, because both of our exit doors were on the end where it started and our bedrooms are on the other end,” Simms said. “It would have been hard to get six kids out of four bedrooms.”

Family members, the Red Cross and people in the community have been offering support, but still, dealing with the emotions of the incident has been a tall order for the Simms family.

“It’s been horrible. I cry every day. I go down there and I think, ‘This cannot be real,’” Simms said. “It’s bothered (the kids) too. My little boy finally broke down the other day and said he wanted to go home.”

Simms said the family has begun to receive clothes and household items, but are in need of any support the community can offer. Donation jars have been placed at various local businesses and a benefit is currently being scheduled.

For anyone who would like to donate to the Simms family, visit http://www.gofundme.com/8p9ob4 or call Emily Simms at (859) 481-3669 or Ashley Simms at (859) 481-4618.