The Benson family was having fun in the sun this weekend, with Daniel, 31, dirt-bike riding and Nicole, 30, swimming in her in-law’s pool with her two young sons, Davine, 9, and Peyton, 2.
At 4:26 p.m., Cobb Fire dispatched three engines, a ladder truck and a rescue truck, along with a battalion chief and 18 firefighters, to the Zachary Woods subdivision off Barrett Parkway, between Dallas Highway and Burnt Hickory Road, said Daniel Dupree, a Cobb Fire Department spokesman.
The two-story home had “heavy fire showing from the front porch, first floor and second floor,” Dupree said. “A defensive, exterior attack on the fire was conducted due to the large volume of fire and potential for collapse. It took 45 minutes to control the fire and units were on scene for three hours extinguishing hot spots.”
Nicole Benson said investigators with Cobb Fire were at the home Monday morning and insurance representatives would be arriving today.
Cause could have been electrical
Cobb Fire said the cause is still under investigation. But Daniel Benson, who had noticed some suspicious occurrences with outlets, said signs are pointing to an electrical fire.
“It was just an average day. I locked the door and planned to come home,” Nicole Benson said. “The neighbors said within minutes it was gone … God really saved us.”
On Monday afternoon, the couple was standing outside the scorched house in galoshes, rain jackets and hooded sweatshirts. Their faces were a mixture of shock and exhaustion.
The Bensons rent the more than 2,000-square-foot home built in 1988, which is owned by Anthony Howells and valued at more than $146,000, according to the Cobb County Tax Assessor’s Office.
Daniel Benson said Howells told the family he is happy everyone is safe and not to worry about how this will impact him. The Bensons do not have renters’ insurance, despite owning many of the appliances inside.
“It hits you every time you pull up,” said Nicole Benson, who wants Cobb residents to take this as a warning to have any faulty wiring checked and clean heating ducts. “Once it lights on fire, there is no stopping it.”
Neighborhood quickly responds
At first, Nicole Benson could not believe what she was being told on the phone until the family jumped in the car.
When the Bensons rushed home from near Atlanta Sunday afternoon, they returned in time to see the home still smoking as firefighters packed the road and lawn.
“Then my stomach started to turn. I didn’t want to get closer,” Nicole Benson said.
The Bensons did lose one member of their household. Although one of their dogs, a boxer named Kya, was in the backyard, the Shih Tzu, Charlie, was trapped in the house and perished in the flames.
On Monday afternoon, as the couple stood in front of the collapsed porch, Daniel Benson’s eyes began to tear up as he described the house that was “perfect” for his family, while Nicole Benson pointed to where she used to cook or sit with friends to talk.
“It is still kind of fake to me right now,” Daniel Benson said. “I can’t let it sink in.”
The Bensons had just moved to west Cobb two and a half years ago from Houston, Texas, to be closer to Daniel Benson’s family in Vinings. His sister and her family also live just two houses down in the Zachary Woods subdivision, about 4.5 miles from the Marietta Square.
The Bensons hope to rent another house in the same neighborhood, where Davine Benson catches the bus for Cheatham Hill Elementary School.
The family lost most of their possessions, which became part of the charred debris. Daniel Benson’s tools and trailer was safe and some photo albums survived, but other mementos were lost, including German figurines from Nicole Benson’s grandfather and hand-made ornaments from her grandmother.
The neighborhood has already donated many items such as gift cards, shoes, clothes and a couch. They will be staying with extended family until they can get back on their feet.
Daniel Benson’s brother-in-law started the Benson Family Home Fire Fund, with information online at gofundme.com/8biybw. He’s set a goal of $5,000 and had raised $950 as of 7 p.m. Monday.