- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Seeing a hummingbird come back to its feeder brought tears to Lori Sinclair’s eyes. The hummingbird was just a small indication that life was getting back to normal for her family of four, which lost its Dentsville home to a fire in March 2012.
The Sinclairs, with the help of the community, family and friends, bounced back from their loss, rebuilt their home on the same property and, nearly one year after the fire destroyed their home, moved back in.
Using the same builder who built the original house, the Sinclairs were able to have a near replica built. Some minor changes included stone in place of siding on the front of the house and a sprinkler system for the home’s interior.
Zachary Sinclair, 16, said of the first night he slept in his new room designed exactly as it appeared before the fire, “I felt like I never left.”
Last year, Frank Sinclair and his wife, Lori, returned home from an evening out to discover flames coming from the back side of the house.
Frank Sinclair, a former volunteer firefighter, ran into the house to save the five family pets — two dogs, Nattie and Rolo, and three cats, Mickey, Sammie and Toby.
Toby was lost in the fire.
It took firefighters 30 minutes to control the fire, which had fully engulfed the home. The fire originated on the back deck, and a cause was not determined.
Looking back, Sinclair said that even though everyone involved has been wonderful during the ordeal, he would go back in time if it meant “we could have our old house back and Toby.”
Spending 15 minutes in the house looking for the animals and grabbing whatever items he could, including son Jordan’s lacrosse equipment, Sinclair received burns and smoke inhalation injuries.
He was treated at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. When he arrived home, he found out that the La Plata community had come together to help his family. His first night back was spent in a fully furnished and decorated townhouse that the family would have as their temporary home while they worked to get their home back.
Every room was furnished and decorated. The kitchen was stocked with food and utensils, and the boys’ bedrooms even had clothes hanging in the closets.
Mickey, one of the surviving cats who suffered damage to his ears and fur during the fire, became the unofficial mayor of the Hickory Ridge community during the family’s several-month stay in the townhouse.
Looking back on all of it one year later, Frank Sinclair said there aren’t enough ways to say thank you to those who helped.
Sinclair said the process of getting a house built back on their property after the fire was long and, at times, overwhelming.
Lori Sinclair said there was a lot of paperwork involved and a lot of back and forth with various stakeholders.
At times, the family thought of using the settlement to purchase a home in another location rather than rebuild just to make the process quicker, but Lori Sinclair said thinking about moving someplace else made her realize that she wanted her house back more.
“When you love your home and then it’s taken away from you, you almost long to get it back,” Frank Sinclair said.
Though it took a little longer than expected, the Sinclairs said all those who took part in the rebuilding process, including the builder and the landscapers, were great to work with.
At one time, the backyard was just debris and dirt, and the Sinclairs recalled Ed’s Plant World telling them not to worry about it. A short time later, the landscapers had managed to get the yard back to how it once was.
After the Sinclairs moved back in with the help of their family, who knocked out the move in a few hours to beat the rain, neighbors started to appear with welcome back wishes and gifts.
Throughout the process, Lori Sinclair would send out letters to friends and family thanking them for their support and updating them on the progress.
“The reason we got through it is because of our family, community and friends,” she said.
A few months after the fire, while the family was in the townhouse, friends and family threw them a Christmas in July party in order for the family to have decorations and ornaments for the holiday.
Lori Sinclair said they were given more ornaments than the small tree they had could hold and that she was looking forward to the first Christmas in their new house.
Zachary looked up at the exterior of their new home and realized that he likely would be called on for the chore of hanging exterior lights.
The family moved in to their newly built home on Valentine’s Day, almost a year after the fire and nearly 13 years after they originally moved into the home.
Frank Sinclair recalled moving into the original home in February 2000, when the youngest child, Jordan, was a baby.
Looking around their property, Sinclair pointed out a few reminders of the fire, including a charred propane tank sitting by a tree waiting to be discarded.
A piece of concrete under the deck with burn marks and melted remains of a storage container remind the family of the evening they lost nearly all of their possessions.
The hardest part for Frank and Lori to this day is the anxiety they often feel now when leaving the house.
From the fire and the water damage, the family was only able to salvage a few of their belongings, including a framed tobacco leaf, a reminder of Lori Sinclair’s childhood on Allen’s Fresh Farm.
The frame was damaged and later replaced, and now hangs in the very spot it did in the original house.
The countertops are identical to the original, and the furniture is new but in the same arrangement as the old. A wall was removed from the original design, giving the Sinclairs an open-concept living area.
Lori Sinclair said some people who come to see the house wonder why she opted to get the same things, and all she could think was she liked her original home and simply wanted it back.
Jordan is able to play basketball in the driveway or lacrosse in the yard as he was before.
Saying little about the whole ordeal, Jordan expressed merely that it was good to be home.
Frank Sinclair said one of the doctors who treated him after the fire told him that in his beliefs, one doesn’t realize how much they have until they have lost everything.
Sinclair said he and his family realized after they nearly lost everything that what they had all along and are continued to be blessed with today are “wonderful neighbors, community, family and friends. “
Sinclair said he could ask for nothing more.