Family going through rigors of losing home to fire

Published 10:25 am Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jacqui Spriggs and her family scrambled outside in frigid weather just before 4 a.m. Monday as her house went up in flames.

Spriggs had a massive collection of shoes, but the mother of three didn’t have time to grab even one pair as she screamed for her children and boyfriend to get outside, she said. Thermometers showed 8 below zero that morning.

“We were all sleeping and my boyfriend couldn’t breathe,” Spriggs said.

A raw, burned out hole in the upstairs of a home destroyed by fire early Monday morning.

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Yet Spriggs somehow had the presence of mind to grab her purse. If there were any fortune left during such an event, it was that her keys were in it. Spriggs’ boyfriend, Tyler Turner, grabbed a cell phone. Out of five people in the house, only one had socks, Jacqui Spriggs’ 3-year-old son. He and the others — Spriggs, her boyfriend, her 6-year-old son and 11-month-old daughter, piled into her car, turned on the heat and called 911. Spriggs’ 11-month-old was later treated for smoke inhalation, but everybody was OK.

The house they were renting at 802 12th St. NE, owned by Spriggs’ stepfather, is a total loss. Spriggs recalls the smoke and how she knew the flames were creeping up the inside of the walls. Her 6-year-old remembers hearing the smoke detectors.

Pictures, locks of hair, baby teeth, school projects, Christmas ornaments and more sentimental items are all gone. Before the fire started, Spriggs viewed such potential events like everybody else.

“I never thought it would happen to me,” she said.

But minutes later Spriggs was driving her children to her mother’s house for clothing and safety. She looked back and watched flames blow the windows out. A mechanical fire, according to the Austin Fire Department, was the cause of the blaze. Spriggs said just looking in the windows is difficult. She can’t go inside or see what she can salvage. A kind firefighter went back in for her and salvaged a drawer, which contained a ring passed down to Spriggs.

The past few days have been a rollercoaster for the family. Spriggs repeatedly said how the feeling is horrible. Talking to insurance agents, trying to visualize and itemize what was in the home and the stress of going back to work have haunted Spriggs. It’s hard to focus, she said. Yet Spriggs is grateful.

“First and foremost, we’re all alive,” Spriggs said. “We’re all safe.”

And others are helping them stay safe. Among many individuals who have already offered necessities, the Red Cross supplied clothes, bathroom essentials and stuffed animals for the kids and put the family up in a hotel room. While the house was still burning, Elaine Hansen of the Red Cross was already there.

“Elaine was waiting for me at the house,” Spriggs said about the Red Cross’ executive director when she returned from the hospital.

With everybody approaching her from all angles, Spriggs said at times she has wanted to give up. But she won’t. She thought of others who lost their homes to fires and what they went through. She thought about her kids.

“I’m a mother,” Spriggs said. “It’s not like I can just lay down and fold over.

People who want to help local disaster victims can donate to the Red Cross, at 305 Fourth Ave. NW in Austin, or by calling the Red Cross at 507-437-4589.