For a man who had just lost everything he owns to a house fire, Terry Herald was in surprisingly good spirits Tuesday afternoon.
"We should be OK," he said in a phone interview Tuesday. "We've already gotten some donations of clothes and we have a place to stay—we'll be alright."
Herald's house in the 200 block of Ashwood Road was extensively damaged in a fire that started at about 5:40 p.m. Monday afternoon.
The house is insured, and Herald said he had an appointment with the insurance adjuster later on Tuesday afternoon.
No one was injured in the fire, but the family pet—a nine-week-old kitten—is missing.
"We don't know if it got out, or is hiding somewhere, or didn't make it," Herald said.
While the house sustained considerable damage and the structure is unstable, Herald said he believes there are some places not as damaged where the kitten could be scared and hiding.
The family still has hope the kitten will be found alive, he said.
Herald lived in the house, which he bought in 2006, with his girlfriend, Alecia Newman, and their four children, who range in age from 3 to 13.
Until they find more permanent arrangements, Herald's family is staying with his mother, who has a five-bedroom house.
While the family lost its possessions, including the Christmas gifts that had been purchased so far, Herald has a positive attitude and said he and Newman will still be able to provide a Christmas for the children.
"The Christmas presents were upstairs, so they're gone, but because we were a little behind, we didn't lose everything we planned to buy," he said.
Procrastination and finances prevented them from finishing their shopping earlier.
"My girlfriend is a nurse, and she's been working extra hours, and I worked extra so we could have the money to finish shopping this week, so we'll be OK," said Herald, who works in the commercial lighting and sign industry.
The fire is still under investigation but it appears to have started in the back of the house, where the washer, dryer and electrical panel were located, according to Herald.
Herald said firefighters told him the blaze was much stronger and accelerated much more quickly than a traditional dryer fire.
The first level floor collapsed in the back of the house, and the roof is falling in, according to Herald. He wanted to go inside to look for the kitten but he said that firefighters wouldn't let him because the building isn't safe.
"The whole house is leaning," he said. "I don't think they're going to let us go back in at all, so it looks like everything is lost."
Herald is surprised by the outpouring of support from the community. Thanks to the Internet, word of the fire spread quickly, as did offers to help.
"Yeah, it's been amazing," Herald said. "Before I even got back to where I was staying last night, my sister told me it was all over Facebook, Patch and Baltimore County Breaking News—I even heard the Baltimore Blast plan to do something at a game this week."
Friends and other concerned people have started a Facebook page and organized several drop-off spots to donate clothes and other needed items for the family of six.
An online appeal for donations had already collected more than $2,000 in pledges as of Tuesday afternoon.
"It's really taking some of the worry away," Herald said. "People are really wanting to help out—it means a lot."
How to help the Herald/Newman family:
Donations may be dropped off at the following locations:
- 3017 Freeway, Baltimore, MD 21227 (for folks who live on the western side of the county)
- 209 Ashwood Road in Dundalk
- 7735 Charlesmont Road in Dundalk