News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 25, 2013

Chimney fire ruins Seelville family's Christmas

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

SEELYVILLE — Anguish and tears were evident on the faces of the members of one family as they watched firefighters battle a fire in their two-story Vigo County home Christmas Day.

“My son’s whole room is gone,” said homeowner Stephanie Johnson as she stood Wednesday afternoon on the property on U.S. 40 on the east edge of Seelyville.

She said the laundry room, two kids’ bedrooms and the whole basement were affected by the fire, which authorities have said originated in the wood-burning fireplace in the family room located in the basement.

“All of it is gone on Christmas Day. What do you do to deserve this?” she tearfully said.

Johnson, however, was just “glad” that the fire did not happen at night when “my son was in bed,” she said.

Afterward, Johnson was seen hugging her 12-year-old son, Noah, whose room and belongings were destroyed by the fire.

Johnson said her granddaughter’s Christmas gifts, which were in Noah’s room, were also destroyed.

No one was hurt in the fire. The family was at a relative’s house near Rosedale for a Christmas gathering when Johnson and her husband, Johnny, got the call about the fire.

“We weren’t even gone two hours when we got the call,” Johnson said.

The family’s dog, which was in the property when the fire started, was rescued by firefighters, she said.

Rick Long, public information officer for the Seelyville Fire Department, said firefighters got the call at 1:42 p.m. A neighbor saw flames coming from the roof, he said.

“It’s definitely a chimney fire that expanded to the family room and a bedroom,” Long said.

Estimated cost of the damage was about $40, 000, he said.  

Firefighters immediately had the situation under control, Long said, who also complimented the firefighters’ quick response.

Some of them put their holiday plans on pause as they responded to the fire.

Seelyville Fire Department, Posey Township Volunteer Fire Department, Riley Volunteer Fire Department, Honey Creek Fire Department and Sugar Creek Fire Department were among responders at the scene.

The Johnsons’ family and friends also gathered , to show their support.

Johnson said “if they weren’t here,” she didn’t think they could “make it.”

“My husband and I were pretty traumatized,” she said.

“Not a good way to spend it [Christmas Day].”