ROCKPORT, Summit County — Tawni Sprouse and Travis Mann were planning to get married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony Saturday, but the fire that has destroyed 14 homes and threatened hundreds more likely will force them to relocate.
“I was at work (Tuesday) when my mom told me that flames were coming up the hill and she needed to get out of the house right away and that she would call me when she got to the bottom (of the hill),” Sprouse said. “There must have been a cellphone tower burned or out because there was no service at all. We couldn’t get hold of each other."
The couple drove frantically to Sprouse's parents’ house — the planned site of Saturday's wedding and where their 5-year-old daughter was staying.
"We got off at (State Route) 32, and it was completely blocked off,” Mann said. “(The police) wouldn't let us go by. We knew it was bad at that point.”
“I was crying hysterically, not being able to get ahold of my mom, my daughter,” Sprouse said.
Eventually they were able to reunite. The family and dogs made it out safely.
For two days, they've watched as the flames inched closer, hoping the home would be spared.
"The house is perfect for an outside wedding,” Sprouse said. “There is a long stone aisle. They planted bushes and trees everywhere.”
On Thursday, one wish was granted: a trip up the mountain to the house, with police escort.
"(The officer) was very to the point and (said), 'You have to promise no more than 10 minutes and get right back out here,'" Sprouse said.
The home was still standing.
"When you go up there, everything is just black now,” she said. “It looks like the house was spared — barely.”
They grabbed necessary medications and one other item crucial item — Sprouse's wedding dress.
“I’m very grateful we were able to get that,” she said.
The outdoor wedding here, with 100 family and friends, appears impossible.
"Everything around it is just scorched,” Mann said. “It's smoky and there's ash.”
As of Thursday, the couple hadn't given up hope that their wedding could still take place at the home, but they were out scouting other possible locations.
“At this point, rain on our wedding day would be welcomed,” Mann said with a laugh, anything to tamp down the smoke and flames.
Sprouse said even though their dream venue may be out, her dress and fiancé is all she really needs.
“Just plan on Saturday," Mann said. "There will be a wedding.”
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