Fires destroy 2 homes

An effort to thaw frozen water lines Thursday afternoon sparked a fire that left a Seymour man and his two adult grandchildren with nothing.

A dozen firefighters responded to the fire at the home of Walter Hildreth at 106 E. 14th St. No one was injured in the blaze, which was reported at 1:12 p.m.

No injuries were reported in a separate fire early Friday morning. That fire near Crothersville left a family of four without a home.

The Seymour fire began in a crawlspace beneath the three-bedroom house where a propane heater was being used to thaw out a frozen water line.

Hildreth, 71, was home at the time and attempted to put out the fire on his own, but he was unable to because two fire extinguishers had frozen up, said his daughter, Cathy Reed of Lafayette.

“He had lived in that house for 45 years,” she said. “But really, he was born just a few houses down, so he’s been there his entire life.”

Seymour resident Andy Rumph and his wife, Brandy, who own and operate a local funeral home, are leading efforts to help Hildreth and his grandkids, Brent and Stephanie Pollock, who also lived in the home. The family did not have homeowners insurance and lost all their personal belongings, Andy Rumph said.

The funeral home assisted the family in October when Walter’s wife, Eileen, died.

“It’s hard because it was his last link with Mom,” Reed said of the home.

Rumph said the family has received vouchers from the American Red Cross for three nights at a hotel, but they will need to find a new place to live.

Their former one-story, wood-frame home will need to be torn down, removed and replaced with possibly a used double-wide mobile home.

Brandy Rumph said Friday afternoon they had found a temporary house in Seymour for Hildreth and his grandchildren to use for a few months until they can find a more permanent solution.

However, the home is not furnished.

“They are going to need a couch and beds right away,” Reed said.

The Rumphs are accepting donations of clothing, appliances, furniture, money and gift cards to help the family get by.

The family also has three dogs. One dog, a puppy, didn’t survive the fire, Reed said.

“If you can help with any of these items or just make a donation of gift cards for food and essentials, that would be great,” Andy Rumph said.

Also, Reed said she has set up an online account on gofundme.com to help with expenses.

Reed said because of her father’s health, he has limited mobility, and any assistance with making it easier for him would be greatly appreciated.

Firefighters from all three fire stations in the city fought the fire.

The second fire was reported at 5:22 a.m. Friday at the home of Eugene and Sharon Begley at 7787 S. County Road 975E, Crothersville.

Crothersville-Vernon Fire Chief Ben Spencer said the family of four was able to escape through a bedroom window and were not hurt.

Firefighters were on the scene of that fire for nearly seven hours.

“We had a couple of issues,” Spencer said. “The main one was the weather. The cold and the wind were bad.”

The other issue involved having to bring water in tankers to the fire, he said.

The cause of that fire remains under investigation, and the Indiana Fire Marshal’s Office is assisting with the investigation.

Firefighters from Grassy Fork, Jackson-Washington and Austin fire departments assisted.

Spencer said the American Red Cross sent workers to the scene, and there also was family there to help.

The house was a total loss, he said.

How to help

Walter Hildreth and his two grandchildren need men’s pants in size 42 waist, 25 inseam and 34 waist, 34 inseam; 2X and extra-large shirts, size 9 and 11 shoes and boots and women’s size 12 pants and large shirts.

Donations can be left at Woodlawn Life Celebration Center, 311 Holiday Square Road, or donors can call 812-523-1074 to have items picked up.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.