A Light in a A Very Dark Time - The Hester Fire Story
Dwayne and Beth Hester experienced the worst nightmare of many homeowners when their custom-built Georgia “dream home” was consumed in a house fire. The entire home was destroyed. The only remaining structure standing was just bits of the framing and stubs of some interior walls. When viewing the site from above, all you can see is a wasteland of ashes and burned debris.
The Hesters can give valuable insight into what it feels like to lose everything in a house fire… and also what it feels like to get a glimmer of hope back.
“Everything was just gone in a matter of minutes”
It’s horrifying to imagine the devastating feeling of seeing your entire life’s work, all that effort and time and most of your material possessions, go up in flames. Beth recalls, with tears in her eyes and emotion in her voice, “This was our dream home. And everything was just gone in a matter of minutes.”
Thankfully, no one was hurt in the fire. Dwayne says, “I had been out cutting grass, and my wife was inside. I just happened to look up...and see the smoke coming up.”
Beth says, “I went outside to see what was going on, and that’s when I [saw] the fire was just blazing… The fire progressed from the back corner of the house, just in a matter of minutes.”
Despite the valiant efforts of the fire department, the house was a total loss
Though the fire department arrived quickly, the flames were so intense that the house burned for hours. The Hesters’ son, Jason, had come to see if he could help his parents. He recalls, “When I got [there] the whole house was in complete flames… about 75% completely engulfed.”
After ensuring his parents were safe, Jason supported them the only way he could during this shocking, devastating moment in their lives: “I stood [there] with my parents for about 6 hours… and watched the house turn into a complete, total loss.”
Imagine what must go through your mind at a moment like that. How would you feel? Beth gives us a glimpse into the mind of a house fire victim when she says, “And there I stood, barefoot in the wet grass, thinking, ‘What are we gonna do now?’”
The tragic loss of their home was made worse by the fact that Dwayne had sacrificed and worked so hard to build their dream home himself. Jason says, ““I knew how hard my dad had worked to build this place. He drove every nail in this house himself.” He continues, “Felt like, 17 years, with everything they had worked for, was gone. It was just unreal.”
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The best efforts of the fire department were insufficient to pry open the Hesters’ Liberty Safe
After that hellish day and night, the sun rose on a new day, and with it there appeared a small ray of hope. Dwayne recalls, “The next morning, the fire chief called me. They were back on scene, and they saw my safe… They said ‘Maybe we can help you get into it.’”
Dwayne had his doubts that any of the safe’s contents would be salvageable, based on the length and the severity of the fire. “I asked [the fire chief] if he thought that anything would be able to be recovered out of it, and he just looked at me and said, ‘I’ve been doing this 17 years, and quite honestly, I don’t think there’ll be [anything].”
Jason remembered his parents had kept some valuables and firearms in a safe in the home. He says, “I knew that [my dad] had the Liberty Safe in the basement, and I asked him, ‘Dad, what’s the chances that… the safe is intact?’”
The firefighters and the Hesters tried pry-bars around the door, but the Liberty Safe held fast, even after going through such a destructive, intense, and lengthy house fire.
Jason was thankful for the firefighters’ efforts to help them try to get into their gun safe. “They did a really good job trying, but they were never able to make it in [by prying],” Jason recalls, “After 30 minutes of prying, we changed direction and began to cut the side of the safe.”
“Nothing was damaged. Even the paperwork I had was not burned”
After the group worked persistently to cut open the side of the safe with industrial tools, the first item removed gave the Hesters their first glimmer of hope.
Jason says, “The firefighter reached in and he pulled out a bible that my dad had placed in there. I reached and grabbed the bible from him immediately because I had been looking for something, just any kind of hope at all. I opened the pages and I saw the pages were clean, they were white, they were not scorched or charred in any way.”
And there was more good news. “Remarkably, many of the guns were in very good shape,” says Dwayne. “I had some valuable documents and some jewelry in there that belonged to my mom. All of that was intact. Nothing was damaged. Even the paperwork I had was not burned.”
Beth relates, “The money, the valuables, his mother’s rings… that stuff was still safe. The money was never even touched.”
Liberty Safe: “A little bit of light in a very dark time”
Though this kind of devastating home fire is a nightmare for any homeowner or family, the peace of mind that comes with storing your truly irreplaceable items in a fire-resistant safe can scarcely be measured.
Beth is justifiably emotional about the loss of their dream home, but she’s quick to look on the bright side and is thankful for the performance of their safe during the lengthy house fire. “That safe was [rated] fireproof for up to 1200 degrees for 75 minutes, she says. “It went WAY past 75 minutes.”
“I just wanted to say thank you again to Liberty Safe for the valuables that your safe helped us to get back in a time when we had lost everything,” Beth continues.
Dwayne echoes Beth’s feelings: “I would like to say to Liberty Safe that I am extremely thankful for their product. I really am still amazed that what we got out [of the safe] was in as good a condition as it was. I did not expect to recover [anything] out of it”
Jason says in an insightful and poignant fashion, “Insurance can replace, and money can replace certain things, but there’s other things that money can’t replace. In such a dark time, when you’re looking for any kind of glimmer of hope, Liberty Safe was able to provide a little bit of hope for us that morning, and a little bit of light in a very dark time.”
Click to see Liberty Safe’s line of proven, USA-made, fire-resistant home and gun safes, or check them out at your local dealer.
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