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'Everything's gone' in fire

A candle's flame destroys a family's possessions, but through it all, a mother is thankful for her children's safety and rests on faith.

Published April 25, 2006

The collard greens had been cleaned. The smoked neck bones were starting to boil. As she prepared Sunday dinner, Loretta Cameron took a break to work on 9-year-old daughter Lamesha's hair.

Seconds after she put in the first barrette, she heard a scream:

"Ma, my mattress is on fire!"

Daughter Loresha, 15, had lit a candle in her room upstairs. It caught the bed skirt on fire, Cameron said.

After she ran upstairs and saw flames leaping several feet, Cameron made sure her daughters Ashley, 19, Lamesha and Loresha got out.

Cameron had always wanted a big house with a fireplace where her kids could hang Christmas stockings. But the fire at the two-story house with yellow aluminum siding she rents at 742 30th Ave. S Sunday ravaged the upstairs, destroying her children's clothes and other possessions.

"Everything's gone," said Cameron through tears, walking from charred room to charred room.

Tonight, Cameron and her five kids, ranging in age from 9 to 19, will spend their last of three nights in rooms paid for by the American Red Cross at the Howard Johnson on 34th Street S. Then, she will figure out where the family will live while the house is repaired.

Fire officials said damage to the home was somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000. They confirmed that the cause appeared to be the candle.

Cameron, a stay-at-home mom, said it will be hard to replace her children's clothes and other items on the family's fixed income.

"It's in God's hands," she said. "He's still in control."

On Monday, Cameron, Loresha and the two boys - Dontavious, 14, and Frank, 13 - were back in the home trying to gather some things from downstairs. The boys, who were away from home with their grandmother when the fire broke out, went upstairs to see what was left of their belongings. They sifted through clothes and games damaged by smoke and water. A pink toy car about three feet long sat near a closet. It was covered in soot.

Cameron cried some more.

"This is where I want to raise my kids," she said, standing in the pile of rubble that used to be Ashley's room.

She said she takes solace in knowing none of her children was hurt.

"I can replace all of these things," she said. "But I can't get more kids."

Then, a bright spot.

"Look, ma!" shouts Dontavious, finding a Starsky & Hutch game for the family's PlayStation 2 game system.

It was enough to remove Cameron's tears, giving her hope that things will be all right.

--Marlon A. Walker can be reached at 727 893-8737 or

[Last modified April 25, 2006, 01:07:12]

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