the holidays, many families gather around a crackling fire and bask in
the warmth of good company, but, sadly, the flickering flames spotted
in the Hooper home in Avon shortly after Christmas were no sign of
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Though the young family of three suffered a
devastating loss of their home in a tragic fire, the Hoopers have since
been overwhelmed by a bounty of community support.
has really come together and helped us out,” reflected Kerry Hooper
Jr. “It has been something really good that has come out of
something so terrific.”
Hooper, an employee of the North
Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division and vice-president
and lieutenant in the Avon Fire Department, was at home studying for a
chief engineer exam on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 28, when he first
detected the signs of a fire.
Just after 8 o’clock, Hooper
caught a whiff of smoke while talking with his wife, Rebecca, over the
phone. As he walked toward the front of the house, he noticed
smoke coming through the cracks around the front door.
Hooper, who had smelled burning plastic outside their home earlier in
the evening, believed -- as was often the case -- that a neighbor’s
outdoor fire was the source of the smoke, yet she encouraged her
husband to investigate further.
“When I opened the front door, I
was immediately hit with smoke in the face,” said Kerry. “And
when I looked down through the porch, I saw a small fire on the garage
Rebecca was shocked when Kerry announced that their house, and not the neighbor’s kindling, was on fire.
They both immediately sprung into action.
their 9-month-old son, Ervin, with her family, Rebecca jumped into her
car and headed toward the house while Kerry placed the call to Dare
“This is Lieutenant 46 and I’ve got smoke and
flames showing at my residence,” said Kerry over his radio. “I need
Avon and Buxton fire departments paged now. I need help here at my
Then, Kerry said, he ran downstairs hoping to put the
fire out with the garden hose, but, upon seeing that it had already
melted and that embers were falling on an old couch stored in the
garage, he began sprinting toward the Avon Fire Department.
Kerry thought he could grab a truck and put the fire out himself.
However, before making it to the fire department -- less than half a
mile from his house -- Kerry saw that the couch had ignited and flames
were licking the bottom of the porch.
After donning his firefighting gear and returning to the scene, Kerry realized the severity of the situation.
were flames going through the roof and through the windows,” recalled
Kerry. “And I knew right then that everything was gone.”
Avon, Buxton, and Frisco fire departments arrived shortly thereafter
and began fighting the blaze that had rapidly taken hold of the Hooper
Hoping to prevent the fire from spreading, Kerry
manned an attack line aimed at the neighbor’s house, while the other
first responders focused their attention on the raging fire.
the neighboring house remained unscathed, but despite the best efforts
of all three fire departments, the flames spread too quickly throughout
the Hoopers’ house and the structure sustained major, irreparable
Kerry has worked as a fireman for over 10 years and
believes his house was consumed by flames more quickly than any other
house fire he has seen.
“I got down there in 14 minutes and I
didn’t see anything,” said Rebecca in agreement. “That’s how fast
the house burnt up and that’s how fast they put it out.”
couple praised the work done by the firemen who responded to Kerry’s
desperate plea for help and were grateful that no one was injured.
things can be replaced, lives can’t,” said Kerry. “I’m just so
thankful to God that my wife and son weren’t there.”
Yet, as the couple surveyed their fire-ravaged home, they realized that everything was gone.
“It was pretty catastrophic to see that damage inside,” recalled Kerry.
front of the house, including the nursery, bore the brunt of the
flames, while the two back bedrooms were pitch black from severe heat
and smoke damage.
All of their clothes, toys, and even
appliances had melted, becoming nearly unrecognizable. Rebecca
struggled to identify the metal structure sitting on the front porch as
the remains of Ervin’s stroller.
Countless sentimental items were destroyed in the blaze, as well.
was extremely distressed by the loss of a toy that contained a
recording of her heartbeat, which would soothe Ervin to sleep as an
“Johnny Conner, of the Buxton Fire Department,
went out of his way to search for the music box,” said Rebecca.
“It was melted, but he brought it to me to show that he had found it,
even though I couldn’t use it.”
The Hoopers were especially
grateful to Conner and the Buxton Fire Department for their help
salvaging a few other precious items that evening and the following
And these acts of kindness were the first of many to come.
fact, the list of folks throughout the community, and even the country,
who have rallied around the Hoopers following the devastating fire is a
“We’ve been keeping track,” said
Kerry. “And I’ve got pages and pages of names of people that have
helped us. Everybody has been so good to us and it’s been so
Immediately after the fire, people began contacting
the family to help find them housing and, within two days, they had
received enough clothing for all three of them.
Folks also began
collecting monetary donations at local businesses, through the mail,
and even through a website dedicated to the Hoopers. A bake sale
was held at Conner’s Supermarket in Buxton, both shifts of the Hatteras
Inlet Ferry Operations collected donations, and several other benefits
will be held in the future to support the family.
They have been overwhelmed and truly touched by the amount of support the community has provided.
as nothing could have prepared Kerry and Rebecca to see their son’s
Christmas presents melted to the carpet, nothing could have prepared
them for the level of compassion and support shown by the community.
you is not even enough,” said Rebecca when trying to explain their
appreciation. “Thank you is just not the word. It’s not even big
The couple send special thanks to Kerry and Kenny
Brite, Michelle Palazzolo, Claudia Laskow, and to all of the fire
departments that responded.
They may still be reeling, but they now have the foundation to begin to rebuild.
Hoopers are currently living in a relative’s rental home in Rodanthe as
they await news of their old home, which the homeowner plans to
rebuild. The cause of the fire has been ruled “undetermined.” Kerry
continues to study for the chief engineer exam and both hope to give
back to their community in the future.
“This has been a humbling
experience,” said Kerry. “It makes you humble, makes you proud,
and, most of all, makes you grateful.”
To make a donation, mail a check payable to the Avon Fire Department to P.O. Box 190, Avon, NC 27915 or online at www.giveforward.com under “Help Kerry and Rebecca Hooper.”