Arkville family overwhelmed by support after losing everything to fire last Tuesday
Late last Wednesday afternoon, Arkville resident Jim Gauntt was on his way to Hunter-Tannersville to watch his son, Sean, play in Margaretville’s JV basketball game. Before tip-off, however, he was headed back home, having learned from his son’s coach that his house was on fire.
“That was a fun experience,” Gauntt said, his dry sense of humor still clearly intact despite recent events.
Gauntt’s wife, Renee, was still at work at Peabody’s Pets Feed and Supply in Fleischmanns, the business the Gauntts have owned and operated since 1995. Brandon Johnson, a neighbor, spotted the fire and had his father call 911.
Firefighters from Arkville, Fleischmanns, Halcottsville and Margaretville responded quickly but the house, which has been home to the Gauntt family since June of 1994, was heavily involved when they arrived. Firemen managed to knock down the flames but not before the house suffered heavy damage to the basement and first floor. Water and smoke damage were extensive and the Gauntts lost most of their personal possessions.
“There’s not a whole lot there, but it depends on insurance lingo, and what they say,” Gauntt said, adding that he was scheduled to meet with the insurance company on Tuesday. “But there’s not much left; you’ve got four walls left and a roof.”
While there is clear indication that the fire began in the area of the basement, Gauntt said that officials have not yet said what was the cause.
And, despite the question marks that loom large in terms of the fate of the Gauntts’ home and their plans for the immediate future, one thing is already abundantly clear.
“The community is absolutely unbelievable, and I’m a little proud and stubborn, so it’s not easy for someone like me,” Gauntt said. “The outpouring has been amazing: clothes, food, money, places to stay. We’ve had houses and apartments offered to us, three local hotels offered us rooms, so that’s been… well, I don’t want to say ‘surprising,’ because we live here for a reason. But it’s been extremely refreshing about the human race.”
Roberts’ Auction in Arkville is accepting donations of clothes and other items on behalf of the Gauntts, and a bank account has been set up for the family at The Delhi National Bank of Delhi in Margaretville. The Margaretville Central School varsity soccer and basketball teams are also selling championship T-shirts, from which proceeds will be donated.
“Until you go through something like this, you have no concept of what it entails, like a lot of other things in life,” Gauntt said. “When you go through something like this and this many people are willing to donate time, money, clothes, food… it has just been amazing.”