Christmas fire destroys home

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A family’s dreams of a new home were reduced to ash Christmas morning following a fire near Kilgore City Cemetery.

Now, Joshua and Chanda Stewart don’t know what to do after months of work and thousands of dollars in materials went up in smoke a week before they planned to insure a planned rental. A friend has launched a GoFundMe account as the couple considers options for the family of six.

There’s no hint yet of what started the fire at 305 Memorial early Monday morning, but the old structure was fully engulfed by 1:45 a.m. Dec. 25. Kilgore Fire Marshal Brandon Bigos’ was called to the scene about 2 a.m. – his investigation is ongoing.

Josh last visited the home Saturday, Chanda said: as usual, he made sure to unplug all equipment and, always cautious, opened all the breakers (save one) when he left. 

According to Chanda, the couple has had a verbal agreement with the property owner to begin a rent-to-own agreement Jan. 1, and they’ve been gradually fixing up the house the past six months. 

“That’s when we were going to get homeowners’ insurance and all that,” she said, estimating they put about $10,000 into the building since learning in early summer it was vacant. “We completely gutted the whole house except for the bathroom,” then steadily remodeled the interior.

“We had a lot of stuff that we had already bought that we had stored there.”

Living elsewhere, they woke up Monday morning to a call that a house on Memorial Street had burned overnight – 305 is the only residence to speak of, a wood-frame structure of mixed construction materials.

“My husband jumped up. He ran. He got in the car and drove done there,” Chanda said. “He called me and said everything’s gone.

“We’re only there on the weekends. We unplug everything. He shuts all the breakers off on the house except the front porch light. We don’t understand how this happened.”

After investigating the scene Monday morning, Bigos had no details to share Tuesday.

“I don’t have anything as far as origin or cause since it’s still under investigation.”

Family friend Jessica Jones’ grassroots fundraiser for the Stewart’s is available online via GoFundMe.com/4wzr5o0.

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