Hope rising from the ashes

After a fire destroys its house, a Hernando family receives community support and a welcome phone call.

Published August 18, 2006

HERNANDO - After their home burned down in the middle of the night last week, Mark and B.J. Muscott were left with little.

To make things worse, the insurance policy on the $256,000 house on Croft Lake expired less than two hours before the fire gutted much of the structure. It was a total loss.

But believe it or not, they didn't care. They were too overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community.

"I have more than I probably had before," said B.J. Muscott, just days after the fire. "If the insurance company don't pay it, I don't care. I am just so thankful."

On Wednesday, B.J. and her four children were sorting through the donations from family, friends and strangers when the phone rang. It was more good news.

"Allstate is covering everything," she said.

The insurance company sent claims adjusters last week, but the Muscotts still didn't know whether Allstate would honor the policy, which was set for renewal the day of the fire.

The details are still being worked out, but the Muscotts hope to rebuild their home, which was willed to them by B.J.'s grandfather before he died in May.

The Muscotts lived there for about a month before the fire engulfed the house at 1:50 a.m. on Aug. 9.

"The part that hurts the most is the history," she said, naming some family heirlooms and memories lost in the fire.

In the meantime, the Muscotts are living in their old home in Hernando, which seems like new after relatives refurbished it with new paint and furniture donated by dozens of community members.

"How many people walk away from a fire and have a home to go to - not to mention a home full of furniture?" Muscott said. "It just amazes me."

Soon after the Muscotts' story appeared in the St. Petersburg Times, people were lining up outside the house offering help.

An anonymous Ocala woman donated an entire set of living room furniture, while others took up collections and dropped off clothes and school supplies for their four children.

The children - ages 5, 8, 10 and 12 - are homeschooled, but a private Christian school offered to accept them for the year.

It was awkward at first. "We are not very good at receiving," Muscott said. "We are normally on the giving end."

And the fire hasn't dampened that spirit. They received so many donations - such as six televisions - they plan to give the extras to the Citrus County United Way and the Pregnancy and Family Life Center in Inverness.

"We are so blessed," she said. "I just want to say thank you to everyone."

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or 860-7312.