A bolt of lightning is being blamed for a fire that destroyed a McAlester family’s home over the weekend.
In pictures the Maxey family shared with News On 6, the walls of their house are still standing, but flames and water destroyed pretty much everything else inside.
Shelly Maxey was headed home from a haunted house with her oldest daughter when a severe storm came through the area.
“The weather got really bad, tree limbs going across the road and we got scared that a tornado may be upon us, so I called my husband,” she said. “I told him we're about 20 miles from home and we're getting worried because it's really bad and lightning was just coming straight down.”
Shelly's husband told her they were under a tornado watch and that he’d keep an eye on the weather. The about 15 minutes later, he called back saying the house was on fire.
“He heard a huge boom, like an explosion and he jumped up and the TV came on, like it came on by itself and he said, 'Oh, that's not good,'” Shelly said.
Her husband says he then smelled smoke. Adding he was home with their young sons at the time.
“My first reaction was 'Oh my God, the babies!' I call them babies, they're 6 and 7,” she said.
They all made it out safely, but in the pouring rain all the family could do was watch as McAlester firefighters worked to put out the flames.
“We sat there a couple hours. Our boys were in their pajamas and soaking wet,” Shelly said.
The fire rekindled several times, the worst around 4:30 Sunday morning when sparked up again in the master bedroom upstairs.
Shelly kept a number of irreplaceable items inside her closest.
“I kept all their baby books, their baby keepsakes and all that is completely gone,” she said. “Made me have a good cry, but I had to remind myself that my children are OK and that's what's important.”
She thinks her children’s baby books can be salvaged, but that’s not what her 7-year-old son was most worried about.
“He said, 'What about my toys and what about my memories?' And he said the cutest thing because his piggy bank was in my closet and he said, 'Oh no momma, $11 was in there.' The things that are important to a 7-year-old. I told him I’d get him $11,” Shelly said.
Shelly says firefighters were on the scene for about 8 hours.
Their investigation is not complete, but she says firefighters told the family it’s likely a bolt of lightning struck the roof and attic area, igniting some of the electrical wiring and insulation inside, which then spread through ceiling, walls and floors.
Shelly calls herself a worry-wart kind of mom. She says a house fire has always been one of her greatest fears, which is why she had a smoke detector in every room.
"I'd buy the boys a new nightlight and then go upstairs and lay there and worry and go downstairs and unplug it or wouldn't allow anyone to use the dryer after I went to bed,” she said. “It was one of my fears, but I kept telling myself, I don't even know anyone who's had their house burn. There's a really slim chance, that's never really going to happen [to me] and here I am.”
In some of the pictures she shared with News On 6, you can see burned up Christmas presents. Shelly says she had already bought and wrapped most of her Christmas gifts for her five children.
Those gifts are now destroyed, along with almost everything else in the house.
She hopes some of the boys toys can be saved, but doesn’t think their clothes can ever be worn again.
An online fund-raising site has been set up for the family to help them get back on their feet, but Shelly says prayer means just as much to them as monetary donations.
"We just appreciate everybody's prayers because that's the most important thing," she said.
The Maxeys are staying with family for the time being, but are considering getting an RV temporarily.
Her three youngest children, the two boys and an 11-year-old girl still live at home.
The family does have insurance, but are waiting to find out how much will be covered.