by Jennifer LoConte
Jacqueline Probst looked forward to enjoying a relaxing morning, dropping off her 18-month-old twins for their first morning in daycare. With husband Jason at work, she would enjoy a quiet breakfast in their Coopersburg, Pa., home. After popping some bread in the toaster, Jacqueline briefly went outside to speak with a neighbor.
Within minutes, she saw smoke coming from her kitchen. Running to the garage to find a blanket or towel to douse the small fire coming from the toaster, she raced into the house only to find flames leaping across the entire kitchen ceiling. Her neighbor called 911, while Jacqueline frantically called Jason, who raced home. Six hook and ladder trucks, police officers and even the news media arrived as the Probsts watched helplessly from across the street.
Firefighters put out the fire and vented the home by chopping a hole in the roof which allowed for fumes to escape. The couple entered their home thinking they could collect their belongings before staying with their neighbor for a few days. Sadly, nothing was salvageable.
The entire kitchen was incinerated. All of the first-floor windows were broken. Blinds, curtains, paintings, toys, mattresses and rugs were either burned or permanently ruined from smoke. A VCR melted into the television.
Grabbing a few pieces of clothing, they realized even those had to be thrown away as they reeked of smoke and fire. Jacqueline saved a suit for Jason to wear to work but it took three separate dry cleaning attempts to douse the smell. All they had were the clothes on their backs as well as their children’s. Fortunately, the twins were not home during the fire but unfortunately, all of their belongings were destroyed, too.
Jacqueline and her children visited the American Red Cross of the Greater Lehigh Valley the day after the fire. She says, “The children were thrilled with the stuffed animals they were given as they no longer had toys of any kind.” Jacqueline and Jason were given the means to purchase clothing and food. She continues, “We needed everything from clothing for ourselves to complete outfits for the children, even onesies.” Jason adds, “I tried to find accommodations for my family at local hotels but everything was booked. The Red Cross not only reserved a room for us at a nearby hotel, but also paid for our lodging for an entire week.”
The Probsts had no local family in the area and felt very much on their own. After that week, they moved into an apartment where they lived for a year while their home was renovated.
Now back in their original home, the Probsts can still pick up a faint smoky smell when opening a storage box in their garage. Jacqueline and Jason learned a valuable lesson that day. They always make sure to move a toaster or any electrical appliance that sits underneath a cabinet prior to using it and they always have a fire extinguisher handy.
The Probsts attended the Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter’s annual fundraiser last year. Jason says, “We are so thankful for the generosity and support from the Red Cross. You don’t realize how quickly your life can change and you can lose everything in an instant.” Jacqueline added, “The Red Cross helped us in so many ways, providing for both our physical and emotional needs. They helped us get back on our feet again.”