A week after an inferno destroyed their dream home, their beloved dog and nearly everything they own, Kay and Edward Brown are rebuilding their lives and having the best Christmas they've ever had.
"Believe it or not, this is probably our best Christmas ever," Kay said on Christmas Eve. (The fire) really makes you realize what's really important."
The Browns, who lived at 5411 Delematre Road in Oxford Township with their son Gregory, were at work Wednesday when the fire ignited.
Greg was staying the night at a friend's house.
Erie County Sheriff Capt. Paul Sigsworth called Ed at work that morning. AVI branch manager Kathie Fischer informed Kay, who was filling vending machines at the time.
"She came out and got me and then took me to my house and stayed with me for quite a while," Kay said.
Standing in front of their home and watching it burn, Ed said he felt like his whole life went up in smoke.
"It's a feeling I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy," he said.
But since the fire, the Brown family estimates it has received about $5,000 in donations from the local community.
"They're just too numerous to mention and a lot of them have been anonymous," Ed said. "We're going to be stronger after this. Better than we were before, more spiritual and maybe not so cynical. This has restored my faith in humanity."
Kay and Ed had been living with family members and presently reside in Norwalk's Amerihost Inn, an expense paid for by their housing insurance company, Celina Home and Casualty.
The Browns spent their Christmas Eve having dinner with the family of Al Fuchs, Ed's boss and production leader at Janesville Acoustics.
On Christmas Day, the Browns will celebrate with their daughter, Sara Gowdy, 31, who will cook Christmas dinner for the first time.
Ed said the verdict is still out on his daughter's culinary skills.
"That remains to be seen," he said. "She always came to our house for dinner. I'm sure my wife is going to help her. I'm sure our Christmas dinner is going to be just fine."
Firefighters estimate the Browns' home to be a total loss of $250,000. The value of the home is estimated at $180,000 while the value of its contents is $70,000.
Sandusky and Milan Township firefighters said the cause of the blaze is still under investigation. But Ed said firefighters and his insurance agent told him a rusted heating insulation pipe connected inside the walls to the home's wood burner caused the fire.
"Somehow moisture had gotten to this pipe over a period of years, causing it to rust," Ed said.
The Browns' insurance company is paying for them to rebuild their house at the same address and estimates they could be able to move back in as soon as April.
The family's biggest concern this holiday season is the loss of their mixed-breed dog, Lacey, which they owned for 13 years.
"I know this may sound crazy that we're so concerned about our dog, but she was one of our kids," Kay said