- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
As the doctors were removing his clothing, Frank Sinclair recalls looking up and saying, “These are the last four pieces of clothing I have left to my name.”
Sinclair was at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., being treated for smoke inhalation and burns as the result of a fire that destroyed his family’s Dentsville home.
Little did Sinclair know at the time that when he arrived back in Charles County, not only would he have a place to stay for his first night home, but by the next day he would be moving into a completely furnished townhome, thanks to the efforts of the La Plata community, his family and friends.
On March 11, the Sinclairs were coming home from dinner when Sinclair said he recalled turning the corner to where their home was in the 1200 block of Provident Drive and seeing a ball of smoke.
“I think that’s our house,” he recalled saying to his wife, Lori.
Sinclair was right. Pulling up to the house, he could see the back side of it was engulfed in flames.
The origin of the fire, state fire marshals reported, was on the deck of the home, but the cause has yet to be determined.
Sinclair ran into the house to save the five family pets — two dogs, Nattie and Rolo, and three cats, Mickey, Sammie and Toby.
He said Sammie must have been outside of the home since she had no injuries. Mickey suffered burns and is currently missing most of both ears due to his injuries.
Both dogs were rescued; the third cat, Toby, still is missing.
“My neighbors begged me not to go back in,” Sinclair recalled.
He said he spent about 15 minutes in the house, which accounted for his burns and smoke-inhalation injuries.
His son, Zach, 14, and mother, Maggie Schwartz, visiting from England, also were sent to the hospital for smoke-related injuries after going into the house. They later were released from Civista Medical Center in La Plata.
Lori and son, Jordan, 12, were uninjured and did not enter the home during the fire.
Sinclair, having been a volunteer firefighter in the past, said he knew as he stood watching the fire that the outcome would not be good.
“I watched my house completely burn to the ground right in front of us,” he said.
Seventeen firefighters from volunteer departments in Bel Alton, La Plata, Newburg, Hughesville and Mechanicsville extinguished the flames in 30 minutes, fire marshals reported.
It took less than 24 hours for the community to rally.
Sinclair faults no one for the loss of his home and said he is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for his family.
Marty Margolis of La Plata, who coached with Sinclair, happened to have a vacant townhouse at the time he heard of the Sinclairs’ situation.
After getting the OK from the Sinclairs that they would be interested in staying at the house, the wheels began to turn.
Community members volunteered to clean, paint and decorate the home so that it would be ready for for the family to move in by the time Sinclair came home from the hospital.
Deni and Kris Bayer, who run the Charles County Lacrosse Club, handled the majority of organizing the community’s efforts, the Sinclairs said.
The Bayers were unavailable for comment.
Frank Sinclair coached several sports in the area, including lacrosse with the CCLC.
Lori said she broke down in tears when she walked into the townhouse. Every room was furnished and decorated. The kitchen was stocked with food and utensils, and even the bedrooms for her boys were furnished with clothes hanging in the closet.
Kasey Richardson of St. Leonard works with Frank Sinclair and said several people from the Sysco company, where they work, helped out at the townhome, went shopping to purchase household items and even administrators from higher up in the company sent clothing and other Sysco-related items for Frank and the family.
“What we did was pretty incredible,” Richardson said, recalling the joint effort from Sysco, the La Plata community and so many others. More incredible, he said, was thinking about why so many were lending a hand.
He said so many people stepped up because of “who the Sinclairs are and what they mean to us.”
Margolis said the townhouse was a home within 24 hours.
Outside of putting a home together for the family, community members, local businesses and schools helped to put memories back together for the family.
Sports clubs worked to re-create photo albums with the boys’ sports pictures. Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School, Piccowaxen Middle School and La Plata High School re-created awards and yearbooks for the family.
Sinclair said local businesses provided discounts on clothing and other items for the family. He also said Casey Jones restaurant in La Plata threw a birthday party for Lori, since plans for a birthday getaway were hampered due to the fire.
Along with the furnishings, Richardson said there was a box on the kitchen table with thousands of dollars in gift cards from various community members and businesses.
Walking into one store, Lori said she broke down in tears after realizing “I literally needed everything in the store.”
Lori said the family was able to salvage about 2 percent of their belongings from the fire.
The family was able to grab the pets, a few computers and Jordan’s lacrosse stick, something Frank said he happened to see and toss outside as he was making runs through the house.
Lori said having her family, including four siblings, living in Charles County helped a great deal.
She recalled her brothers searching for several hours day and night for her wedding ring.
“As bad as everything is, the upside is how great our family and friends have been,” she said.
“They’re such a wonderful family,” Margolis said, adding that the hundreds of people who helped out in the days after the fire “speaks volumes to what a great family the Sinclairs are.”
Frank Sinclair said he and his family plan to rebuild, if not in the same location where they lost their home, in the same community.
He said the outpouring of support was a “wonderful testament to the community of La Plata and all of Charles County.”