Hope springs from tragedy...

dsc00250On New Years Eve 2008 at 7:30 p.m., firefighters were dispatched to house fire in Anderson, Indiana. The home of Jeff and Amanda Bouslog was engulfed in flames when they arrived. Outside was a group of people screaming that children were still in the house. Firefighters Rick Dowden and Skip Ockomon worked to push back the fire until they were able to get inside to look for the children.

They discovered the tiny bodies of Jessica and Hailey Bouselog, ages 1 and 2. After putting out the fire, a firefighter knelt down with the babies and prayed for them. Each of the men shed tears for the lives lost and the family left behind.A few days after the funeral, Skip visited the Bouslogs at her parents’ home. There were 15 people living under the same roof, and he could see that the arrangement would not work long term.

Inspired by the Bouslog family’s tragedy and words from a retired firefighter who said, “There should be a house for fire victims,” the firefighters determined to develop such a home. Donations started pouring in from the community, and a house was donated by Ready Corp. By September 29, 2009 their vision became a reality, and the first Fire Rescue House was dedicated in Anderson.

The vision has grown, with Fire Rescue Houses opening up nationwide.  We know there is a tremendous need for other rescue houses, and by cooperating with local and national organizations we would like to continue to help the rescue grow.

In memory and inspiration of Jessica and Hailey Bouslog

Robert & Minne Roddy’s Story

On Sunday, October 11, 2009 our home caught fire and changed our lives forever. I had run across the saying written above sometime prior to the fire – weeks, months, maybe even as far back as a year. I really don’t know exactly but on that evening it was all I had to cling to and under the circumstance my faith in it was shaky at best. My belief in God was intact by this situation was dismal. I remember being so overwhelmed initially, tears wouldn’t even come.

I recalled vivid past incidents that displayed an inner strength I longed to reclaim which remains at bay even now. However, fate mercifully intervened providing reprieve and relief. God had given Skip Ockomon a vision that he and his wife Diane refused to ignore. The shelter to house fire survivors during the transition period after a fire became a reality. My husband and I were the first occupants. I know it was divine intervention as our home caught fire a mere sixty four days after we received diagnosis of his stage IV stomach cancer. We not only had a place to live but were surrounded by a group of Madison County volunteers who refused to let us make this journey alone at a time when we were emotionally, physically, and financially drained. This special group of volunteers along with Skip and Diane never said they were too busy or didn’t have the time. They never appeared to be irritated that we had another need they might be able to assist us with.We are so appreciative of the following:

Skip and Diane Ockomon were not hesitant in fulfilling the destiny God has so carefully laid out for them.

The group of Madison County volunteers associated with the Madison County Fire Rescue House willingly gave of their God given gifts, talents and capabilities.

To anyone who may have doubts about living and/or relocating to Madison County, I would say when a community comes together united with a single focus woven together by threads of compassion combined with care not only can we move mountains but we can leap from tall buildings in a single bound landing on our feet unharmed. My husband and I are living witnesses. If you are a fire survivor living in the Madison County Fire Rescue House during your transition whether you know it or not, so are you.

If the reason you are reading this entry is because you are preparing to add your own to this journal, I hope you share this feeling – I await the time when God will grant us an opportunity means to return this favor shown to us by allowing me to give back to someone in need.

I’m so thankful, I can hardly stand it!

Forever grateful,
Robert and Minnie Roddy and Family

Jennifer Jackson’s Story

January 12, 2010 – got up, took children to school around 8:15, picked up grandma, ran some errands – Mentioned to her that I had a doctor’s appointment at 1:30.

I was feeling very tired, exhausted, didn’t want to go. She insisted, dropped her off arrived back at home at 11:20. Instead of going straight to the shower, laid across my bed, started to fall asleep, boyfriend called. I was whining about being sleepy and not wanting to go to the doctor. Couldn’t find the number to doctor in cell phone. Too lazy to go in office and get it. Time was ticking, boyfriend told me to get my butt in the tub and go so I did. Left house at 1:15 only to find out my insurance was not active, very frustrated. Instead of going home, drove right past my street, headed back to grandma’s to wait for time to pick up children from school.

Got them at 4:00, on the way home, landlord calls (which lives in New York) asking was I at home and if I had a dog. I informed her I wasn’t at home and yes we had a dog, Hooch. She proceeded to tell me the house was on fire, for some reason I didn’t feel like it was true. Some misunderstanding maybe. I arrived to find a fire detective taking pictures, Water Company shutting water off. I was very confused. I had only been gone a couple of hours. I felt afraid, devastated, alone, pain stricken, worried and more exhausted than earlier. I almost went to sleep. I often think maybe if I was there, I could have prevented it from causing so much damage, or would I have even been able to wake up? I was so tired and exhausted from life’s everyday struggles. I wanted to just sleep and not deal with anything. Jesus had my back. He gave me person angels: Grandma and boyfriend. God my savior rescued me, got me away from the disaster, the devil tried to keep me there, hold me captive.

God not only pushed me forward, He kept me away so I didn’t have to witness the tragedy that was going on as I passed my street.

My testimony at church that Sunday (my first one) “What a friend I have in Jesus.” “God is good.” He saved my children from growing up without their mother, the dog was rescued.Thanks Skip! Material things destroyed, a beautiful home damaged, but repairable.

No fire is the same, they different every time. Some lose more than others, but we are never alone. “What a friend we have in Jesus” He didn’t just stop there, He put people in our lives (our paths) to help us get through. Red Cross was there immediately, what a blessing for someone to come to your rescue so quickly when you’re standing outside in the cold with no where to stay, no one to call. Thank God there was someone to help so quickly. My mother was trying to find me help. Called the Herald Bulletin, they gave me Skip’s number. When God says I will never leave or forsake you, He’s for real.

An amazing man with a heart of love, he gave me hope that we didn’t have to go through this alone. He checked on us every day, and got us in the Fire Rescue House.

Now I believe there are angels on earth. Fire Rescue House, so cozy, felt like home, you don’t want to leave! Most of all we felt safe and secure. That is all we needed right then. THANK YOU!!

Thank you Skip and Diane, Toby and Greg, Kris (the kids were so excited they met the mayor!) Operation Love, Texas Road House, Captain D’s, Chic Filet, Melanie (you’re awesome) and all others. God Bless.

My prayers go out to everyone reading this. You are not alone this too shall pass. You’re a survivor. What a friend we have in Jesus!

And now you have me,
Jennifer Jackson, Jevon, Jemaika
We love you and Bless you!

Debbie Anderson's Story

Life is a Highway…

This is one of my autistic daughters’ favorite songs. It is from the “Cars” movie.

Life’s highway has taken us through many ups and downs. January 3, 2010 was just another down time. The fire let us with no place to live for a few months.

I received a call from Skip Ockomon (AKA – Fire Angel.) He had to talk me into letting them help. I am not a proud person but what I call a self-reliant type.

The Fire Rescue House was just what we needed. It gave us a few days of calm and time to just think. Life may give us all down times but always remember there are a lot of good times ahead. If you believe in anything, believe there is a plan.

You may not see this plan now or next week. In the grand plan or our life, this fire was a blessing to me and my daughter. It allowed us to have a better house than before the fire. Remember, take one day at a time, or even one moment, and count your blessings.

And remember, Life is a Highway. There is a beautiful mountain view coming just over the next hill!

Thanks again Skip and the rest of the crew from the Fire Rescue House,

Debbie Anderson and Abby Anderson

Holly Webb's Story

Our house caught fire on December 23, 2009. I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I have an eight year old daughter and a five year old son. I wanted to make sure they still had Christmas. Then I got a call from Skip saying we could stay at the Fire Rescue House, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me. When we got there on Christmas Eve they had a tree up, Christmas gifts for the kids. I was at a loss for words. The whole time we were there everyone involved with the Fire Rescue House treated us like we were family. Even though it’s not your home they have made it to where you feel like it is. Having to go through all of this has shown me that we have a lot of great people in our community. And even at the lowest and hardest time in your life, you are not alone.

I’m very grateful for my stay there. And even if you feel like things can’t get better, just know that they can and they will. You have great people who will help you and make sure it happens.Thanks so much!

Holly Webb and Robby McKenny

And Rylee and Jaxin

Mike and Connie Waller's Story

April 6th was a Tuesday. It was a beautiful day, 83 degrees, but really windy.

My husband and I used to have a house in Summitville, which is north of Alexandria. My electric bill was due that day, so we both rode to Alexandria to pay the bill. We stopped at the store to get a few things then stopped at Dairy Queen to get some ice cream. We just kind of took our time going home because it was such a nice day.

We had been home about 10 minutes when what looked like a big storm went between the house and garage. I said to my husband, “What’s that?” I yelled at him to call 911 that the garage is on fire. I ran out the front door to move my car and he ran out the back to try and get the water hose on so that he could try to contain it to the garage. At this time he did not know that I had went back into the house, but the house was not on fire at this time. I stood in the kitchen and watched the fire jump from the garage to the house. I knew then I had to get my dogs and get out. I picked up my purse put a puppy under one arm and a puppy under another. I yelled for Sally, the best and most protective dog ever and said, “Let’s go.”

We walked out the front door, the wind had taken the fire to the extreme. The boat and bar-b-q were exploding. That must have scared Sally because she ran back into the house to safety. Sally died from smoke inhalation. My husband and I literally got out with the clothes on our back. There was 3 different fire departments there, 3 county police, the Summitville police, state police, and the Alexandria police, and countless ambulance EMT’s there putting their lives at risk to save my home and our belongings.

God Bless them. To see first hand what they do is just unbelievable. The Red Cross, what they did, and now to know that there is a place like this and people like Diane and Skip. I only hope to be the kind of people for others as they have been for us.

May God Bless
Mike and Connie Waller