On Wednesday, Reedy and Amy Long were busy sifting through the damage an Easter weekend fire had brought to their Opelika home.
They were trying to save whatever was still intact, and the driveway leading up to the home was littered with a mixture of children’s toys, books and keepsakes along with piles of soot, burned wood and trash.
Officials with the Opelika Fire Department told the couple the fire was started by an electrical problem with a vent fan in their bathroom on Easter while they were at Amy’s mother’s house celebrating. After being put out, the fire started again the next morning.
“Just when you feel like you’re finally getting back on your feet and we’re good somewhere, here we are right back again, all over again, because of something that’s completely out of our control,” Amy said.
This wasn’t the first time the Long family lost their home. Like so many others, the Longs’ previous home in Beauregard was destroyed by the tornadoes that hit the area March 3, 2019, and claimed the life of their cousin, a child named Taylor.
The Longs have a daughter and two sons. Amy said that their daughter cried after hearing about the fire. “And the next thing out of her mouth was, ‘I’m so happy my family is OK.’ That was all she was worried about, not her stuff, her family.”
The Longs were renting the home, which originally belonged to Reedy’s great grandmother, from other family members. While the family had renter’s insurance, which should help mitigate some of the damage to their belongings, they said they didn’t see any hope of moving back into the home after the fire.
“In my mind, it’s a total loss,” Reedy said. “Pretty much the only thing [that isn’t damaged] is the brick.”
Inside the house off West Point Parkway, piles of fiberglass insulation made gray from the smoke and reduced to clumps from the fire hoses had fallen through the ceiling and covered the floors, leaving the blackened and charred attic and support beams of the roof exposed, with some sections of the roof so badly burned that large holes let the sunlight in.
To make it through the tragedies of losing so much in the past two years, the Longs said they’ve relied on their faith and having to be strong for their three children in order to keep moving forward.
“God has a plan and God’s always taking care of us, and we’ve always been a big believer in that. No matter how bad it is, everything happens for something else to come, whether it be the tornado or the fire,” Reedy said. “You’ve also got to stay strong for the kids and don’t let it consume you.”
Members of the community have lent in to pitch a hand in the days following the fire, and a Go Fund Me page for the family has been set up with a $2,500 goal. As of Wednesday afternoon, $4,000 had been raised.
“We’re trying to save what we can—stuff that hasn’t been water damaged—and most of our clothes all smell like smoke and we have multiple family members getting clothes they found to see if they can wash them and get the smell out,” Amy said. “We’ve been through toys and everything, and most of them we just can’t keep.”
After the hard work of saving what they can is done, the Longs said their next step will be looking for a new home, and this time Amy said she hopes they’ll be ready for whatever comes next.
“I’ll tell you this: we won’t ever rent or buy anything without having way-over-the-amount of insurance than what we really need,” Amy said. “Whether we pay eight times more for it than what we pay now, we cannot go through that again.
“When we lost the house in the tornado, our insurance paid off half of what we owed. That’s it. You’re trying to make that payment and then paying to live here and survive with your kids … and we got the short end of the stick because we didn’t have ‘enough’ insurance.”