ESCANABA - Though a Nov. 3 blaze destroyed most of their belongings, members of the Murphy family are thankful no one was home when the fire broke out that morning.
"I'm thankful that my family is all together and that we're all alive and that God's given us a second chance," said Leah Murphy, 31, taking a break from her work at Pioneer TV & Appliance on Tuesday.
She and her husband, Jim Murphy, 40, were both at work when a fire occurred on the first floor of their two-story home at 316 S. 18th St. more than three weeks ago. Their children - Nicklas Shanahan, 8, Brennan Shanahan, 10, Taylor Shanahan, 12, and Shannon Sexton, 16 - were all safe at school.
Leah Murphy poses for a photo with three of her four children, from left, Nicklas Shanahan, Taylor Shanahan and Brennan Shanahan. The family expressed appreciation for help from friends, relatives and the community after their house caught fire earlier this month. Other family members include Murphy’s husband, Jim, and daughter, Shannon Sexton. (Daily Press photo by Jenny Lancour)
The family's home suffered fire and smoke damage, as well as water damage from the firefighting efforts. The cause of the blaze was determined to be a vacuum cleaner in the living room, Leah said.
The Murphys plan to bulldoze the home down and put the lot up for sale. They'll use their insurance funds to buy a home elsewhere because the lot is too small to build on, Leah said.
"We're looking for a new start," she said. "Our goal is to buy a home by Christmas so the kids have a place to hang their coats."
Since the fire, the six-member family has been living in a friend's mobile home or staying in a local motel.
Brennan said, "It's good for right now, but I just miss my home. I'm glad I'm not in that fire. I'm glad that I was not in it. That's what I'm happy about."
His sister, Taylor, added, "It's not home. You can't call a friend's home or a motel, home."
Mom admitted the living quarters are tight but said, "I'm just happy that we're all alive and nobody got hurt."
During the past weeks, they've received much help from family, friends and the community including the American Red Cross, Elmer's County Market, Super One Foods, Toys for Tots, and Cooper Office Equipment.
"The community has really pulled through. The schools have really pulled through," Leah said. "All we had was what was on our backs."
Most of their belongings, if not burned, were damaged by smoke, Leah said. Between family members' asthma and allergies, it's unlikely they will retrieve much from their home, she added.
The Murphy's appreciate the clothes and money donations they've received. And they're thankful for being together this Thanksgiving.
"I'm thankful for each other," said Nicklas. "And that we're all okay."
Brennan said he's thankful for all the food they will feast on at relatives' houses. He's also thankful for his family and that they're all okay.
Taylor said, "I'm thankful to have friends and family that care about us dearly and that everyone's okay." She added that she wants to give a "shout out" to those friends who have helped them.