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Thursday, May 26, 2016
It’s good to be home again
After fire, Wantagh family returns to place of comfort
Andrew Hackmack/Herald
Ed and Jean Garcia, of Wantagh, are happy to be back at their Hawthorne Drive West home after a fire last year.

There’s no place like home. Dorothy said it in “The Wizard of Oz” and the Garcias of Wantagh are saying it, too.

A fire last year forced three members of the family to flee through windows, but after a year of rebuilding, they are back in their long-time home. “It feels great,” Jean Garcia said, sitting at her dining room table with her husband, Ed. “We couldn’t wait.”

The fire started in a closet of a downstairs bedroom, which was being used as an office, at 1231 Hawthorne Drive West on July 5, 2013, at about 11:30 p.m. Jean and Ed were in their upstairs bedroom when they heard a smoke alarm go off. Ed, thinking it was just a dead battery, went to investigate and discovered smoke billowing up the stairs.

He went to get his wife, who had knee surgery just three weeks prior. But they were unable to make it down. “You could see flames coming up the staircase,” Ed said, “so that wasn’t going to be an exit point.”

They popped out a screen and made it onto a lower roof. Their youngest son, Tom, who escaped through a basement window, and a neighbor grabbed a ladder in the backyard and set it against the house. By then, firefighters arrived and helped Jean and Ed to safety. They were transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

While the fire was mostly contained to the one room in the back corner, the hallway and attic above, smoke and water damaged the rest of the house. The rebuilding process began and by December, work was underway.

On July 12, one year and one week after the fire, they moved back in.

“Everything is still in the same place,” Ed said, noting that the layout of the house remained the same, but just about everything else is knew. The walls were ripped down to the studs, the floors and ceilings were torn out.

The house has all new electric and plumbing. The windows, siding and roof are all new. Parts of the frame has to replaced in the area where the fire burned. A new central air conditioning system was installed. It was a big job, the Garcias noted.

They will never forget the look of the house immediately after the fire, and the sadness they felt in losing their home of 35 years. They were determined to rebuild, because the house meant so much to them. “All of our children came home here from the hospital,” Ed said.


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