Fire destroys rural home
Rob Harris says if you live in the country and hear sirens, chances are you're going to look out the window.
If the sirens are close enough to be heard, it could be a neighbor is in trouble.
That was the case late Friday night, when Harris looked out his window and saw his neighbors' home burning across the street on East 800 Road in southern Douglas County. The fire quickly destroyed the Breithaupt family's 100-plus-year-old farmhouse, displacing the seven people who lived there.
Since the fire, dozens of people living in this part of the county have pitched in to help the family -- giving them clothes, donating groceries, or making a church offering Sunday morning earmarked for the family.
"Immediately, everybody was driving by and trying to do what they could to help them," said Harris, who accepted donations for the family all weekend at his home-based heating and cooling business.
Neighbors were immediately sympathetic to the family's plight.
"Some of them didn't even have shoes on ... There's been a big outpouring of love and support," Harris said.
Brandi Breithaupt lived in the home with her husband, Eric, their three children -- ages 16, 6 and 10 months -- and Eric Breithaupt's parents. The family had lived at the home the past 18 years, but on Monday the house was a heap of smoldering rubble.
Rob Harris looks over the remains of the Breithaupt family's burned-out home southwest of Lawrence. Harris, a neighbor, is helping collect donations for the family.
"Everything's just gone. It's hard to believe," Brandi Breithaupt said. "We're going to have to start all over again."
The fire came at a time when the Breithaupt family was dealing with a series of difficulties, including Eric Breithaupt's battle with thyroid cancer that began last spring. He recently became well enough to go back to work through a temp agency.
"My first priority was, number one, to make sure all my kids got clothes and food and a roof over their head," she said. "I want to try to keep everything as normal for them as possible."
As of Monday, the family had received enough donated clothing to get by but was still in need of everyday items such as groceries, diapers, furniture and linens, Brandi Breithaupt said.
The family is receiving some assistance from the American Red Cross.
Breithaupt said she didn't know as of Monday how much of her family's losses would be covered by insurance. She said the family has a possible housing arrangement pending, but in the meanwhile some are staying with her mother in Lawrence and others are staying with an extended family member who lives near their former home.
Anyone interested in giving donations to the family can do so through the Breithaupts' church, First Church of the Nazarene, at 1470 North 1000 Road.