The Navarre community is raising money and donations of clothes and toys after a young family whose husband and father is deployed to Afghanistan lost their home in a fire on Wednesday.
Annie Blanks, Pensacola News Journal
The Navarre community is wrapping its arms around a local military family with a young child who lost all their belongings in a house fire Wednesday night.
Shannon Zottneck was in her living room with her two-year-old son, Maddox, at around 8 p.m. Wednesday when she said she heard a popping noise coming from the garage. When she opened the door, she saw flames and immediately jumped into action.
“I turned around and grabbed my son and grabbed my dog by her collar,” Zottneck said. “I ran out front and saw how bad it was from the front and our cars were still there, so I ran inside and tried to find my keys and my purse. I moved two of our cars really fast before they were completely damaged.”
Shannon, Maddox, the dog and one of Shannon’s friends who had been in the house with them were able to escape without injury as the flames consumed their rental home on El Paseo Street. Her husband, Tim, an airman at Hurlburt Field, wasn’t home because he was deployed to Afghanistan about one month ago.
Chief Ron Norton with the Holley Navarre Fire District said crews were able to extinguish the flames in about 15 minutes but remained on scene until midnight to make sure the fire was completely out. The fire itself destroyed about half the home, and the other half sustained massive smoke and water damage.
Norton said preliminary investigations indicated the fire was caused by electrical issues in the garage, possibly with a power strip. The state fire marshal’s office is still investigating.
Zottneck said her two-year-old son was dazed by the fire initially but was made to feel better by Norton, who held him throughout the night and even gave him a fire hat and a badge as crews worked the scene.
Zottneck, who works as an insurance agent, said she didn’t have rental insurance on the home—”let me be an example to everyone,” she said—and lost all of her, her husband’s and her son’s belongings in the fire. Despite losing everything, she said she was grateful the fire didn’t happen later on in the night when they were all asleep when the outcome likely would have been worse.
“Possessions, clothes, furniture, everything that was in that house is gone,” she said. “Even the stuff that didn’t burn has smoke and water damage.”
Word of the fire quickly spread on social media, and within 48 hours, an online fundraiser started by Zottneck’s brother, Jeff Collins, raised more than $12,000 for the family. Neighbors and other community members also gathered clothing, toys and other items to donate to them.
Collins, who lives in Pennsylvania, said the fundraiser was a spur-of-the-moment decision and he never dreamed it would raise as much money as it has so far.
“I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it, but before I knew it, it was already over $1,000,” Collins told the News Journal in a phone interview on Friday. “It hit $10,000 in about 16 hours, which is insanely incredible.”
Zottneck said the support she’s received from her neighbors and the local military community has been “overwhelming.”
“I did not expect anything like this to happen. It’s been overwhelming, but in a nice way,” she said. “It kind of gives you faith back in people when you’ve kind of lost it sometimes. It shows you that everybody really does care, and this community, even though Navarre is such a big place, it’s so small because everybody cares about each other.”
Zottneck was able to reach her husband in Afghanistan several hours after the fire since he has limited internet service where he’s stationed. She said she’s been in contact with Air Force officials and the military is working to get her husband back home, either temporarily or permanently, due to the fire.
She’s currently staying with a friend while she finds a new place for her and her son to live.
“We’re just going through all of our options, but everyone has been so amazing,” she said. “Things can be replaced.”
Annie Blanks can be reached at email@example.com or 850-435-8632.
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