Recovery is moving slow after lightning damaged the under-construction home of Haley and Peter Kern on May 30 in Greensburg.
It seemed unreal for the Kern family in Greensburg as they watched firefighters tackle a fire at their under construction home.
Lightning hit their under construction home at 307 Elm Drive around 11 p.m. on May 30. Neighbors smelled smoke and called the fire department, said Haley Kern, home owner with husband Peter.
Kiowa County Sheriff Chris Tedder said several neighbors reported hearing the lightning strike. He said the room above the garage suffered the most fire, heat and smoke damage. The fire was fairly well contained in that area.
Kern said the fire investigator told her it looked like the house was possibly hit twice, once on the peak and once on the northeast corner of the garage.
The new house has been under construction for the past 15 months and Peter, who is wood working teacher, was doing all the work himself. The house was about 75 percent done. Now they are busy removing damaged materials and back tracking to a point where they can start moving forward again. There was extensive heat and smoke damage on the second floor and they are tearing off the garage portion of the house. There was smoke damage throughout the house at different levels.
They had to remove all the sheet rock on the second floor and all the sheet rock from the ceiling on the first floor. About 10 percent of the sheet rock in the basement had to be removed.
On Tuesday, June 5, a mass of volunteers came and removed all the sheet rock in just one evening. Peter is building the house by himself and it would have taken him about two weeks to get all the sheet removed by himself. It took the volunteers from three to four hours to get it done, Kern said.
Besides the sheet rock, the windows on the second floor have to be replaced. The temperature was 800 degrees and it distorted the glass. Firefighters also had to break some windows to attack the fire.
Even with all the help, the family is still in the demolition phase. Peter had to pull off all the trusses over the garage. The family will be working with a fire restoration company before they can start rebuilding. Everything on the second and main floor is covered with soot. Things have to be sanded down and washed.
All this will take a lot of time and has to be completed before they can start moving forward with construction.“We’re probably a ways away from putting sheet rock back up,” Kern said.
Although the house is under construction, the family had moved some furniture pieces into the room above the garage for storage. A couple of couches, a bed, dining room table and hutch were all lost in the fire.
The fire has set the house project back about six months. Peter is a teacher and is using his summer off to work on the house. He hired out the concrete work and the plumbing but other than that, he has done all the work himself with some help from a couple of students. It’s a very slow process. They had anticipated in being finished by Thanksgiving but now it looks like it will be sometime before school starts in 2019.
For all the problems, the family is thankful they were not moved in and that the neighbors responded and called the fire department.
“It could have been way worse,” Kern said. “We had no precious belongings in the house.”
If the strike had happened about an hour later, around midnight, the outcome could have been very different. The neighbors would probably have been asleep and wouldn’t have smelled the smoke. The house would probably have burned to the ground, Kern said.
The community has been very supportive throughout this entire ordeal. They have a great church family and a lot of good friends in Greensburg.
“It’s a wonderful community. Everyone has been great,” Kern said. “It’s humbling with all the prayers and support and fund raisers. It’s pretty amazing.”
The Kern children had a tough time with fire as well. McKenna, Garett and Stanley were all in shock. Garett, the 8-year-old, had the toughest time. He has a big heart and was upset. Stanley, who is 3, believed in his dad and said he can fix it, Kern said.
As the recovery continues, the family is tired but holding up good. It was just kind of a punch in the gut, Kern said.
The Kern family also went through the tornado on May 4, 2007.