A family of 10 was forced to celebrate Easter Sunday in a motel room after flames and smoke tore through their Ann Street home Saturday afternoon, destroying the baskets, candy and eggs set aside for the children.
"We lost everything, it’s a total mess," said Patty Donovan, mother and grandmother. "They colored their Easter eggs on Friday."
Donovan said she was at Wal-Mart buying the last of the Easter goodies when she got a phone call from her daughter at about 3:30 p.m. that their home of nearly five years was on fire.
"My daughter called me crying and screaming," Donovan said. "I started freaking out. I rushed home in a panic."
Donovan and her family could only stand outside and watch as firefighters battled the flames on the second-floor of 400 Ann St., at the intersection of Ann and Louisa streets in south Rome. Only four members of Donovan’s extended family were home at the time of the blaze, and they were able to escape without injury, officials said.
"They said they smelled smoke from upstairs and found the fire in the bedroom," said Rome Deputy Fire Chief Thomas P. Palinski.
"We had flames visible in two windows up on the second floor" upon arrival, Palinski stated. "The flames had already ventilated out through those windows."
The chief said two hose lines were brought upstairs for an interior attack. The crews had the flames knocked down by 3:49 p.m.
"They did a great job. Because of the aggressive attack, the fire damage was contained to that one bedroom," Palinski stated.
Both floors and their contents sustained smoke and water damage. Palinski said the smoke detectors were activated.
Donovan said that because her five children all suffer from asthma, they cannot keep any of the smoke-damaged furniture.
"That’s what’s making it hard for us," she stated. It has been a "headache" to wrangle all 10 people into the Quality Inn on South James Street after the Red Cross set the family up in the motel for the weekend. The Red Cross has also provided immediate food and clothing. Donovan said her family celebrated Easter together at the motel.
Donovan said she was living with her five children: Samantha, 19; Andrew, 17; Alex, 13; Tyler, 11; and Derek, 11. Also living at the residence were Christopher Hautala, 17, Samantha’s companion and father to infant Logan Hautala; as well as Donovan’s aunt Linda Lighthall and her son Danny Lighthall. All ten were moved into the motel.
Samantha and Andrew Donovan, as well as Christopher Hautala and the infant Logan were the four home at the time of the fire.
Later this week, Donovan said they are planning to move into a residence on Parry Street. Her brother and his family had just moved out, and they asked their landlord if Donovan could move in.
The family is looking for help from the community to afford the first month’s rent and security deposit, as well as trying to replace the furniture, beddings and clothes lost in the fire.
"Anything they can get us," Donovan stated. "We have nothing."
The Ann Street property is owned by Dolores DeCarolis, of 7022 Rome-Oriskany Road, and has an assessed property value of $30,000, according to city tax records. The residence was insured, but the Donovan family did not have renters’ insurance.
Anyone wishing to help Donovan’s family directly can reach her and her at 313-2821 or 264-4773.
Anyone wishing to donate to the American Red Cross can call 336-0030.
The cause of the Ann Street fire remains under investigation today, fire officials said.
Also under investigation is a fire at 730 W. Dominick St. from 2 a.m. Saturday. Heidi Wright and her four children were also displaced after a fire started in the rear of the residence. They are also being assisted by the American Red Cross.