ROBERT - As Wayne and Catherine Ratliff sorted through their children's burned and smokey belongings Friday, they couldn't help but feel a little defeated.
"It's things, but those are memories that I wanted to pass on to them," said the mother of four.
The couple have spent the past few days coming to terms with experiencing something they never thought they would, especially since Wayne is a volunteer firefighter for the Eighth Ward Fire Department in the Robert area.
"I was gathering the wipes and the diapers for the diaper bag and just happened to look upstairs and I saw smoke billowing out of the closet," said Catherine.
"I got my wife and son out," said Wayne, "By the time I come back up, it was too smokey and I had to get out."
Several agencies responded to help Ratliff fight his own fire. In the end, the home's HVAC unit turned out to be the cause, leaving the couple and their four children, including a special needs daughter, out of a home.
"Whatever wasn't damaged by smoke was damaged by water because the hot spots kept coming back and they had to put that out with the water," said Catherine, "It's just devastating."
Their community has responded with donations, a temporary home and a lot of love.
"To get him back on his feet so he can come back and help us," said Dennis Pitts, a captain and EMT with Eighth Ward, "He is our chaplain, he does help us on spiritual levels also. When things are going wrong, he'll pray with us or pray with anybody for that fact."
"God has blessed us to give us joy in this time of need with the community outreach, to churches, to fire departments," said Wayne, "It's been a great blessing."
Though it's tough to find themselves on the other side of the call, the Ratliffs have faith it's for a reason; one that will allow them to return the favor in the future.
Donations of gift cards and necessities are being accepted at the Eighth Ward Fire Station on Highway 445 in Robert, next to Champ Cooper School.
And there's a fundraising dinner scheduled at Santa Fe Restaurant in Hammond on January 24 from 4p-10p. Ten-percent of sales that night will go to the Ratliff's recovery efforts.
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