A community effort is under way to help the Weston Pratt family, whose home was extensively damaged in a fire Nov. 23.
Gwen Squire, a social worker at American Fork Hospital, said a trust fund has been set up at the Bank of American Fork to accept donations. Donations can be sent to the Pratt Family Trust Fund, Bank of American Fork, P.O. Box 307, American Fork, UT 84003.The fire happened about 8 a.m. and caused an estimated $25,000 to $30,000 in damage to the house at 327 Washington Ave. It started in the basement, apparently after a blanket was draped over a kerosene heater.
No one was seriously injured in the blaze although the Pratts, one son and seven grandchildren were treated briefly at American Fork Hospital for smoke inhalation.
Another son, who is the father of the seven children, left the home earlier to go to work. The children have been living with their grandparents for six weeks, following the death of their mother in a car accident in St. George.
Marilyn Pratt said that items in the home that weren't burnt received smoke or water damage, and are useless.
LDS Bishop Bert Alexander, who is coordinating help for the family, said the Pratts lost almost everything in the fire.
"We have had a lot of clothing donated for the children," Alexander said. The family still needs donations for furnishings, however.
"The refrigerator used to be white, but now it is tan to dark brown," Pratt said. "Anything that was plastic (TVs, stereos, dishes) just boiled over, and the fumes from the burnt plastic are in everything. The grandkids' brand new coats got burned up.
"My husband and I worked 35 years, and instead of saving money we tried to help our kids," Pratt said. "This fire has kind of wiped us out. It's just devastating, not only the material loss, but emotionally."
Since the fire, the family has been living with Marilyn's mother, Pearl Ault, in American Fork. Marilyn has taken time off from her job as a tower guard at Utah State Prison to help her husband, who is retired, salvage items from the home and begin to clean it up.
"It's been so cold we can only stand to work for about an hour at a time," Pratt said.
Pratt said the family has had a hard time finding temporary lodging because of its size, although a two-bedroom rental home has been made available by a local real estate firm.
The family hopes to be able to repair and refurbish their home; insurance compensation has, however, been put on hold while the insurance company decides whether to pay off the mortgage on the home or give the money to the Pratts to repair it.
"I'm not sure what will happen, but we're concerned about how we will get back into the home," Pratt said. "If they use the money to pay the bank off, we won't have money to fix it up.
"People keep telling me bad things come in threes," Pratt said. "I just want to know when I can start counting."