Archive for Thursday, February 24, 2005

Janitor homeless after house fire

February 24, 2005

A Lansing Elementary School custodian and his family are without a home after an electrical fire destroyed their house in Kansas City, Mo.

Mark Haddock, the head custodian at LES who has worked in the district full-time since 1984, said he, his wife and two of his sons returned from a shopping trip about 6 p.m. Feb. 13 to find the house at 419 Prospect Ave. destroyed.

"And what wasn't destroyed, they stole," he said, referring to looters who ransacked the house before he returned.

Haddock said his oldest son, who is 25, was home at the time the blaze started but escaped without harm. He said his pets, a dog and a cat, also escaped unscathed.

Jim Duddy, assistant chief fire marshal of the Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department, said a space heater in a back bedroom started the fire, which spread to most of the house. He estimated the losses to be about $75,000 for the structure and $25,000 for the contents.

Haddock said the house was a total loss and that an inspector had deemed it unsuitable for habitation. Haddock said the bedrooms had been destroyed in the fire and the walls and floors had buckled from water damage.

He said that the estimates he'd received indicated that the house would cost more to rebuild than it's actually worth. And because his insurance policy had been suspended within the past six months while he made repairs on the house, rebuilding isn't an option.

Therefore, he said, the house must be demolished.

"They boarded it up," he said.

Haddock said he and his family are staying with his mother in Leavenworth while they decide what to do.

Mary Ann Austin, a second grade teacher at LES, said few people knew about Haddock's plight, but teachers at the school were pooling money to buy a Wal-Mart gift card for him and his family. She said she also gave him some towels and clothes.

"They lost everything, right down to their underwear," she said. "The day I brought things in to him, he cried. He was so appreciative."

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