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Outpouring of support kindles warmth for house fire victims

[1/2/04]Support from close friends and total strangers plus a strong belief that everything happens for a reason are keeping a Vicksburg couple who lost everything they owned in a fire amazingly upbeat.

Police Lt. Davey Barnette and his wife, Jann Barnette, a civilian police employee, have nearly no negative comments on the Dec. 16 fire that destroyed their North Washington Street home. Instead, they call it a mixed blessing.

They said they spent the holidays with family and focused on relationships rather than the material things that come along with the season.

“In a way, this was the best Christmas ever,” Davey Barnette said. “It was about the right things.”

Barnette was returning from his shift at the police department about 11 o’clock that Tuesday night, noticed a glow in the dining room and called for help. Jann Barnette and their daughter and son-in-law were home and made it out safely.

Barnette said the fire investigation determined the cause of the fire was an electrical short near the Christmas tree.

Since that night, only nine days before Christmas, support has come in the form of cash, food, clothing, and has come from strangers as far away as Pebble Beach, Miss. “I don’t even know where that is,” Jann Barnette said.

She added, “It was hard for us to focus on our tragedy without feeling uplifted by people reaching out.”

Businesses have donated home necessities such as flatware and dishes.

And as the new year dawns, they will begin to rebuild their life literally and figuratively.

They’ve begun by settling into their “temporary permanent” home, as they call it. Built as a commercial facility, the Barnettes have managed to turn the metal building into a cozy abode for the time being. The rooms have new furniture an entire bedroom suite was donated along with candles and picture frames that make a house a home.

“I come home from work and feel so fortunate,” Jann Barnette said.

The couple, married since 1989, are planning to rebuild on the two-acre property where their house stood.

And as they wait to obtain the proper permits to demolish the remains, which include the foundation and three chimneys, of the near 80-year-old home, the Barnettes said they’ll continue to restock little by little.

“Every payday we’ll try to get something else,” Davey Barnette said.

The two have returned to work at the police department, where he’s been an officer for 20 years and she’s worked in records for six.

Jann Barnette admits that they worry about things that didn’t concern them before the fire, but that is a small worry compared with the positive.

“This has really softened our hearts,” Barnette said. “We did things before but not enough. “We have a feeling of owing our community.”