Fire leaves officer, family homeless

A Seymour police officer and his family have lost their home and belongings in an early-morning house fire one week before Christmas.

Gilbert and Amy Carpenter and their two high school-aged children, Zach and Haley, were able to escape the blaze without injury, Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said Sunday morning.

Abbott wasn’t sure exactly what happened but said he knew the Carpenters’ home in the 9700 block of North County Road 200E, northwest of Cortland, was heated by a wood furnace.

“Gilbert said he woke up to the popping and cracking sound of the flames, and by the time he got to his hallway, the attic was fully engulfed,” Abbott said. “He was able to get his family, pets and some Christmas presents out, but everything else burned.”

Hamilton Township volunteer firefighters responded to the fire, reported at 3:38 a.m. They were assisted by firefighters from Pershing Township Fire Department in Jackson County and firefighters from Southwest Township and Jonesville fire departments from Bartholomew County.

Hamilton Township Chief Don Schnitker said firefighters spent about two and a half hours on the scene at a time when the temperature was in the mid-teens.

He said those firefighters hauling water had to be extremely careful because of icy road conditions, but workers with the county highway department helped the effort by putting sand and salt on county roads in the area.

Abbott said he talked with Gilbert on Sunday morning and the family was preparing to dig through the rubble to see if they could recover any other personal belongings. They also planned to get a list of what size clothing they wore and other items they needed.

“The way it sounds is he will need a lot,” Abbott said.

Fellow Seymour officer Devin Cornwell has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the Carpenters. Friends, family and the community are rallying behind the family, and 45 people had donated $2,710 in two hours Sunday.

Anyone wanting to donate can visit www.gofundme.com/officer-carpenter.

Another page has been set up by Gilbert’s cousin and 34 people had donated $1,860 in three hours. It can be accessed at gofundme.com/help-amy-and-gilbert.

Gilbert Carpenter has been an officer with Seymour Police Department for nearly 15 years and has served as the lead DARE officer for the past two years working directly with children to help prevent drug and alcohol use.

Also stepping up to assist the family is the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 108, of which Gilbert is a member.

C.J. Foster, president of the local FOP, said the organization will be looking into setting up a fund for the Carpenter family.

“The FOP is going to attempt to get the family what they need immediately,” Foster said. “We, and I am sure the family, appreciates your thoughts and prayers and desire to help them out.”

Donations can also be made at the Seymour Police Department, 205 N. Ewing St.

At a glance

Anyone wanting to donate to help Seymour police Officer Gilbert Carpenter and his family recover from a house fire can visit www.gofundme.com/officer-carpenter or www.gofundme.com/help-amy-and-gilbert.

Donations can also be made at the Seymour Police Department, 205 N. Ewing St.

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