A local Morgan County family lost everything after a chimney explosion set fire to their home in Buckhead earlier this month, destroying the entire house and most of the family’s belongings inside—including all of the four children’s recent Christmas presents.
Kelly and Clint Smith, originally from Conyers, sat down by their cozy fireplace beside their two youngest children on Sunday evening, January 14. The couple anticipated spending a quiet, relaxing evening at home, never suspecting that just in a few short hours, their house would go up in flames—twice.
“It all just happened so fast,” said Kelly Smith, “I was sitting on our fireplace with my children on the floor next to me and I thought I smelled gas.”
According to Kelly, it took just enough time for her husband to take a deep breath to smell the gas leak, too, when the chimney suddenly exploded in front of them and their small children. The force from the explosion was powerful enough to propel the hanging flat screen television above the fireplace clear off the wall, which hit both Clint and Kelly in the heads.
“I am just so thankful it did not knock us unconscious,” said Kelly Smith, still bearing cuts and bruises she incurred from the injury. “We were able to get our children and make it out of the house.”
While the Smiths were able to flee the house with their two younger children, Barrett, 3, and Ansleigh, 1, the family’s beloved cat was killed in the fire and all of their belongings went up in smoke. Kelly’s two older children. Haley, 12, and Austin, 9, were visiting their father at the time of their fire.
“Everything we had was in that house,” said Kelly Smith.
Clint and Kelly praised all of the firefighters who went above and beyond to save what they could out of their house while trying to extinguish the fire.
“They were really incredible,” said Clint. “We are so grateful to them. They not only put everything they had into fighting the fire the first time, but did it twice that night, They went above and beyond to save what they could, too,” said Clint.
According to the Smiths, firefighters were able to save Clint’s car by pulling it out of the garage, some of the kids’ toys, the kids’ bicycles, and Kelly’s jewelry box. By time firefighters extinguished the fire, about 80 percent of the house was destroyed, but some belongings were still inside and would have been salvageable. The couple expected to return in the morning to sift through the debris to see what they could recover. But the fire reignited late in the evening consuming what was left of the house and all that was inside.
“We went back to see what we could salvage the next morning and we found it all gone,” said Clint. “It was completely different than what we were expecting it to look like.”
Morgan County Fire Chief Jeff Stone noted the second round of fire completely decimated the rest of the house.
“The reignited fire caused the roof to collapse, making it even more difficult to put out,” said Stone, who noted firefighters struggled in freezing weather to extinguish the second fire throughout the night into the wee hours of the morning.
According to Stone, the fire reigniting like that is unusual and is currently being investigated. “There is a lot of concern because of the amount of fire we had the second time,” said Stone.
As word spread of the tragic news, the local community rallied together to help the Smith family through this difficult transition. A friend of the Smith family started a GoFundMe page, raising over $12,000 in just over a week. The Morgan County Citizen has collected bags of clothes and toys from dozens people for the Smith family.
“The generosity has just been overwhelming,” said Kelly. “People we don’t even know have donated clothes and toys and money to help us and our children get through this. We cannot express how much we appreciate everybody and all they have done for us. All the love and prayers have helped us so much.”
The Smiths are working with their insurance company to find temporary housing while they figure out if they can rebuild or a buy another house.
“We don’t know what we are going to do yet. We know we are staying here in Morgan County, though,” said Kelly Smith.
If you want to donate to the Smith family, visit: www.gofundme.com/508jle0. The site also includes the family’s clothing and shoe sizes. The Morgan County Citizen is collecting clothing donations for the family. You can drop off donations at 259 North Second Street in Madison. The Morgan County Citizen also has a list of the children’s Christmas presents that were lost in the fire for anyone interested in purchasing replacement presents for the children. You can inquire about the list at 706-342-7440.