Tonganoxie Almost two weeks after fire destroyed their rural Tonganoxie home, Neala and Lars Burnett say they're getting their lives back on track.
The couple is making plans to have the rubble that was their home for two years bulldozed and hauled away. They've already designed their new house, which they'll build on the same site.
In the meantime, the Burnetts and their three children, Heather, 11, Nasi, 10, and Eric, 9, live in a rental home on the same rural route. They visit their wooded property daily to care for the chickens, horses and cow.
Mrs. Burnett, who manages a Kansas City, Kan., Pizza Hut, said her family has received a great deal of emotional and material support from co-workers at the restaurant, friends at a Lawrence Pizza Hut where she used to work, teachers at Tonganoxie Elementary School and members of the Tonganoxie community.
"WE REALLY feel blessed with the way things have gone since this happened," she said. "It's astonishing the things that come in. My kids have more clothes now than they did before."
Fortunately, no one was home when the fire broke out the evening of Jan. 19. Mrs. Burnett was at work, her daughters were visiting grandparents, and her husband and son were attending a "monster truck show."
Neighbors called the Tonganoxie Township Fire Department after they spotted smoke and saw that the front window was broken.
"When I got here, the roof was going and there were flames everywhere," Mrs. Burnett said, but she commended the volunteer fire department for their quick reaction time. "They did a really good job controlling it."
Fire Chief Jim Bennett said the house was beyond saving by the time the alarm came in. Firefighters concentrated mainly on extinguishing the fire and preventing it from spreading to trees and nearby buildings, he said.
MRS. BURNETT said aluminum wiring at the fusebox apparently was the cause of the fire, which started in the kitchen and spread throughout the 13-year-old house. They were able to salvage only a few knickknacks from their daughters' recently remodeled basement bedroom, two laundry baskets of clothing and a canning pot.
"I never realized anything could be so totally destructive," she said, adding that the fire gave them a new perspective on the importance of material possessions. "I had lots of antiques and china before. Now I can't even imagine owning something that I'd be afraid to put on our table."
Their greatest loss was the family's two dogs, which were trapped in the house at the time of the fire. The Burnetts found the animals' bodies and buried them last weekend.
"The thought of what they suffered is agonizing, but we keep telling ourselves at least it wasn't our kids," Mrs. Burnett said.
SHE SAID the family feels optimistic about the future, and looks forward to the completion of their new home.
"Things are going very well for us," she said. "This isn't going to devastate us by any means. From the very beginning, we felt like God was watching out for us. No matter what happens, things are going to be OK."