A Kissimmee firefighter and his family are reeling after an unusual fire damaged their Ocoee home New Year’s Day morning.
Greg Lightbody has been fighting fires for five years and has extinguished dozens of blazes in his career.
But it’s different when it happens to your own home, Lightbody said.
“Nothing can prepare you for this,” said the 31-year-old father of two. “You never realize the additional mental stress that comes along with everything.”
Lightbody got the call from his wife, Cayla, when the New Year was just a few hours old. Greg was on duty at Station 13 near Plaza Del Sol in Kissimmee when Cayla called to tell him the house was burning.
“Your biggest fear is something happening while you’re gone for 24 hours,” Lightbody said. “Being a firefighter just makes you even more paranoid about things like that.”
Cayla, their two sons - ages 3 and 5 - and visiting family members were inside the home when the fire occurred. Everyone got out safe, but the garage was destroyed along with the entire attic and parts of the roof.
The family van caught fire in the driveway, according to reports, and the flames spread to the house and the eves of the attic.
It was unclear what caused the van to catch fire.
It’s a tough loss – especially since the Lightbody family just bought their Ocoee home in June.
“(The year) 2018 was the best year ever, and we kept saying we can’t wait to see what the next year brings,” Lightbody recalled. “And then, everything goes up.”
Now, Lightbody and his wife are working with their insurance company to figure out what comes next. The family is staying at a hotel in the meantime.
The Kissimmee Fire Department immediately stepped up to help the Lightbodys. Fellow firefighters are covering his shifts and several others responded to the scene the day of the accident to help put a tarp on the roof and board up the home.
Fire Chief Jim Walls said it’s been decades since someone from the department has lost their home in a fire.
“Everyone at the department is here for him,” Walls said. “It’s a lot for anyone to go through.”
Last week, Walls presented the family with a $400 check from the city of Kissimmee General Employees Organization and $500 from the Kissimmee Firefighters Local 4208.
The community is also lending a helping hand.
A family friend launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for clothes and toys for the children.
Lightbody said the compassion his family has received is making the recovery a little easier.
“We’ve had such a tremendous amount of support and love from everyone around us,” he said. “It’s more than we could’ve hoped for. People stopping by with food, checking in on us – it’s all been so kind and thoughtful.”
Now, Lightbody said, it’s time to start picking up the pieces.
To donate to the family’s GoFundMe account, visit www.gofundme.com/lightbody-family-fire-relief.