REIDSVILLE, NC – “You're standing there watching everything you’ve worked hard for go up in flames.”
Nichole McDaniel, a surgical technologist and her husband Joe, a welder, were settling into life as a newly married couple. They were learning the ins and outs of daily life, while living in a home on Baynes Street in Reidsville with their four dogs and cat.
A snow storm turned their yard white and after a long day, the two lit a fire in the wood chimney inside the 120-year old home. Nichole went to bed at 9:30 on January 9th, tired after a 12 hour shift at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center. An hour later, her husband frantically shook her awake.
“He said, ‘Honey, there’s smoke all around the house, I don’t know what’s going on.’” Nichole remembered.
She stood up and instantly felt the smoke enter her lungs. Trying to understand what was happening, she ran to the back door and swung it open but bright red flames greeted her.
“I could hear the fire, I said 'Call 911 right now.'”
While Joe called for help, Nichole called her mom, who lives just up the hill.
“The house was fully involved in smoke and they literally crawled out on the floor. They could have easily died from smoke inhalation,” said Nichole’s mom, Linda Seamans.
Nichole’s brother rushed down and tried to put out the flames with a hose, but the attic caught fire and the blaze continued to grow.
As Nichole and Joe crawled on out on their hands and knees, they realized their “children”, their pets, were still inside. Nichole hurried to rescue her babies.
“My older dog was still asleep on her bed and I had to go on the far end of the bedroom and coerce her out because she’s deaf so she had no idea what was going on,” Nichole cried.
Firefighters arrived within seven minutes; a quick response considering the icy conditions of the roads. With all their efforts, the house was destroyed and even continued to smolder the next day. All Nichole and her family could do was watch.
The McDaniel’s saved two bags of smoky, blackened clothes. Their marriage license, taken by the fire. Everything they received as wedding gifts, lost in the flames.
Linda lost several lifetimes worth of family heirlooms. The house belonged to her family for five generations. She was excited to watch her daughter and her future grandchildren start their lives in the house as well.
“I had pictures upstairs of my great-grandparents, my grandmother’s mother and father. We don’t have then anymore,” Linda said in a low, broken voice. “I had pictures of my mom and dad when they were young. I don’t have them anymore. My grandparents, they’re gone.”
Although Linda was heartbroken at losing so much of her family’s history, her heart squeezed tighter at the thought of her daughter losing her first home.
“My life, the beginning of her life, it’s gone and there’s nothing we can do to put that back like it was. We just have memories.”
Mom and daughter took a walk around the house, watching red embers from the fire taunt them. As they looked in horror and sadness, they couldn’t help but pray it was all a dream.
Nichole stopped to point at a charred space where the house once stood. “This was our bedroom. This is what left of my bed.”
“Coming across the yard, it was like, someone punched you in the stomach. It was the most sickening feeling,” said Linda.
Nichole agreed, “You just look around at the house and think this cannot be real.”
The newlyweds are glad to be alive and will stay with Nichole’s mom in the meantime. It’ll be a packed house; Linda and her husband have five pets and will now share the space with Nichole, Joe and their five pets.
Linda joked, “It’s Noah’s Ark and then some.”
As soon as the shock and devastation begin to subside, Linda and Nichole said they will start a plan to re-build on the same property.
A Go Fund Me account was started to help the family. Anyone interested in donating clothes or other items can drop them off at 1231 South Scales Street, Reidsville, NC.