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July 4th fireworks spark devastating house fires
‘We lost stuff in the fire we can never replace’
4th fire 2
Three homes on Burt's Crossing Drive were demolished after a fire broke out around midnight July 5. - photo by Jessica Brown

Jordan Rubright woke up at midnight on July 5 to the sound of his 1-year-old Labrador barking ferociously. 

Unusual behavior for the dog, Rubright walked downstairs to investigate. Looking out the kitchen window, his eyes met a fiery red glow through the curtains.

The neighbor's house was on fire. 

"Our neighbor was outside yelling, I saw that his trash can was on fire," Rubright said. 

Rubright, along with his wife, two daughters and pet dog hurriedly left the house, anxious theirs would be the next engulfed in flames. And it was.

Shortly after midnight July 5, when 4th of July fireworks in Burt's Crossing subdivision off Hwy. 9 had subsided into smoke, Dawson County Emergency Services would respond to three structure fires on the main drive of the subdivision. An hour later all that remained of the houses at 38 48, and 60 Burt's Crossing Drive were the wooden frames. 

Dawson County Fire Chief Danny Thompson said Thursday morning that the initial call came in at 12:15 a.m. and that personnel were on scene five minutes later. The fire was contained within the hour by Dawson County units, as well as mutual aid from Forsyth County.

Eleven people were displaced once the ash settled, and other homes in the area, including 68 Burt's Crossing Dr. and 10 and 29 Winding Creek Ct., were damaged but are still livable.  

Glenn Allen, state fire marshal spokesman, said that the fire was started by improper discarding of fireworks. The fire originated at 48 Burt’s Crossing Dr.

“After igniting the fireworks, the homeowner placed them in a trash can outside of his house, the fireworks reignited,” Allen said.

No civilians or firefighters were injured, and neither the state nor local fire marshal’s office is issuing charges.

Picking up the pieces

Jordan and his wife Amy lived at number 38, which sits on the corner near a cul-de-sac. They had moved into the house only three weeks prior with daughters aged 16 and 20, and half of their belongings were still in boxes. 

"We lost everything we own, everything we've accumulated since we got married over 25 years ago," Rubright said Friday. "We have to start all over, we lost stuff in the fire we can never replace."

Rubright and his wife were both in the Air Force, and Amy currently works as a nurse. 

Friends helped them sift through the rubble of their home on Thursday, unearthing Amy's wedding ring in a jewelry box where she kept it for safekeeping. 

The outpouring of support from longtime friends, as well as people he's never met, has been astounding, Rubright said. 

But it will be a slow process to rebuild their lives. 

On Friday the family was staying in the Quality Inn and Suites on Beartooth Parkway, with hopes to soon move into a former parsonage at a local church. They had leads on new mattresses and were still processing the situation.

The Red Cross was able to give the family Visa gift cards to purchase basics, as the only clothing they had is what they woke up wearing. 

Amy Rubright's sister set up a GoFundMe page for the family, and it reached more than $7,700 in four days. 

Rubright said he hopes for justice after the carelessness of his neighbor, though Dawson County will also not be issuing charges. 

Due to the transition of moving to a new home, Rubright said his homeowner's insurance will only cover a small portion of what he lost. 

"I'm a little perturbed. I'm a veteran, I love America, I'm very patriotic," he said. "But it was just too much for a small neighborhood. When you take on that responsibility of fireworks, you're responsible for what happens after. It's going to take a lot of time and money to get this resolved." 

GoFundMe pages have also been set up for the other two families affected by the fires.

Shannon Wolski created a GoFundMe that has raised more than $5,000 in three days for her in-laws, the Wolski family, who lived at 48 Burt’s Crossing Dr. The page states that Michael and Diana and their 13-year old son and eight-year-old daughter lost everything in the fire and that the GoFundMe is to raise the funds for their immediate needs while they work with their insurance company.

Mary Cortellino Eich’s GoFundMe has raised more than $13,000 in four days for the Glowcheski family who lived at 60 Burt’s Crossing Dr.

According to the page, the Glowcheskis will be moving into a temporary home and are in need of common household items such as paper towels, detergent and dish soap. Those who wish to send gifts or gift cards are asked to send them to 228 Addenbrooke Way, Hoschton, GA 30548.

Community outreach

Once the news broke of the fire, the Dawson County community began to rally to help the 11 victims of the fire.

The Burt's Crossing Homeowners' Association is collecting gift cards to give to the three families displaced by the fire.

Sarah Vasquez, member of the HOA board, is collecting the cards and said they will be dispersed to help the 11 people who lost their homes and all of their belongings. She can be reached at (404) 406-6440.

The board has also organized fundraisers for the three families, and Vasquez said Thursday that Fajita Grill in Dawsonville will be donating 20 percent of sales after 5 p.m. Thursday, July 12 and Pizzeria Azzurri in Cumming will be donating 15 percent of sales after 4 p.m. July 23. 

Mandy McCracken in the Gold Creek subdivision is also collecting gift cards for the families. She can be reached at (706) 525-8060.

RIC Rack in Dawsonville is also serving as a donation site for people wishing to drop off items of clothing or other personal items for the families. The store is at 829 Hwy. 9 N. and business hours are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.