Barre couple thankful to be in new home after explosion destroyed house on Christmas 2016
Don and Fonda Carr appreciate community’s help the past year
BARRE – It was just over a year ago when Fonda and Don Carr crawled through a window at 4 in the morning, escaping with their lives while their home on Wilkens Road was engulfed in flames.
The Carrs lost nearly everything in the fire on Dec. 25, 2016. They are thankful to be alive. They consider it a “Christmas miracle” that they survived that night.
Since then the community has responded in a big way, donating $26,000 through a GoFundMe and additional funds at a benefit raffle.
“The people of Orleans County have just been wonderful to us,” Mrs. Carr said on Wednesday evening at the new house. “We’re very grateful and we’ll never forget them.”
People from outside the county also donated to help them recover from the fire.
The Carrs have been married for 44 years. They lived in an apartment in the Village of Albion for much of 2017. A contractor, Geoff Christian, worked to build them a new house on Wilkens Road. On Dec. 21, four days before Christmas, the Carrs moved into the new house.
“It’s beautiful,” Mrs. Carr said about the one-story, two-bedroom home.
They miss their old farm house, where the Carrs said they have strong memories of raising their two children there.
The couple also feared all of their family photos were lost in the fire, but their son Donny found some pictures that survived. Wet towels and clothes landed on a box of photos and that protected the batch from the fire. Those photos include Mrs. Carr when she was a baby and her parents’ wedding album.
The Carrs are grateful to be back in their neighborhood. Mrs. Carr grew up down the road and Don is a life-long West Barre resident. The road is named for Mrs. Carr’s grandfather, John Wilkins, who was a farmer, just like Mrs. Carr’s father, Arthur Wilkins.
‘The people of Orleans County have just been wonderful to us. We’re very grateful and we’ll never forget them.’ – Fonda Carr
Mrs. Carr worked as a substitute teacher in Albion and Medina. Many of the donations came from her former students.
Mr. Carr is retired as a mechanic and operator from Iroquois Rock Products, a quarry in Brockport. He also is a long-time member of the Barre Sportsmen’s Club. One of the members, Nick Salvatore, organized a benefit for the Carrs. His band, Eagle Creek Band, was one of four bands to play at the benefit.
The Carrs are proud people who have tried to help others and aren’t accustomed to being on the receiving end.
But they said the help, as well as encouraging words throughout the year, have been appreciated.
They recalled fleeing from their burning home about a year ago.
Don Carr heard the ice slide off the roof at about 4 a.m. Then he heard a loud hissing.
Carr happened to be up at that hour going to the bathroom. He thinks the ice severed the propane line. Soon his house was filling with gas. Carr yelled to his wife Fonda to get up.
Carr suspects the well pump turned on in his basement, and that spark ignited an explosion with the house turning into an inferno.
“It was the loudest boom I’ve ever heard in my life,” Mrs. Carr told the Orleans Hub about a year ago. “The house was filling with flames. There was a series of explosions and the wall was buckling.”
The house was rocked by the first explosion, and more followed as the Carrs frantically tried to get out. The front door was jammed and wouldn’t open from the house shifting. The Carrs opened a kitchen window leading to the porch – and got out, barely. As they were scrambling to get away, the house became fully engulfed in flames.
“Your adrenaline is pumping,” Mrs. Carr said. “We just wanted to get out. We didn’t get anything out of the house, because we just knew we had to get out.”
The Carrs made it out wearing their pajamas. Everything else was destroyed including the Christmas presents they had for their family.
Their neighbor, Tom Keeler, heard the explosion and called 911. (Keeler, one of the owners of Keeler Construction, donated gravel and money to help the Carrs rebuild.)
The Carrs escaped the house without any burns. Mrs. Carr was hit in the back of the head by her “Jesus clock” in the living room. She needed one stitch after being taken to Strong Memorial Hospital. After getting hit with the clock, she said she realized how urgently she and her husband needed to get out.
“Jesus was watching out for us,” she said on Wednesday. “Without that I don’t think we would have made it.”