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Blaze Destroyed Long Valley Family's 'Safe Haven'

Sharon Kelly says family will move on, 'everything will be OK' in wake of fire that tore through Shenandoah Court home.

Sharon Kelly spent Saturday morning lounging around, spending time with her dog and cat in bed, awaiting a late fall snowstorm.

Before the day would end, though, Kelly’s home would be just a façade of its former self; a home built by her and her husband, Robert Williams, 15 years earlier.

Kelly was on her way home from a class when she got the phone call from Williams that the house was being taken over by flames. Williams had come home from a walk with the family dog to find the lower level of the home completely filled with black smoke.

When he closed the side door to the home and stepped back to call 911, the roof exploded with flames. A matter of a few seconds, fire officials told him, was the difference between life and possibly death.

The three-alarm fire took more than two and-a-half hours to extinguish, gutting the 4,100 square-foot house on Shenandoah Court. No one was injured but the couple lost a 13-year-old cat in the fire.

Two days after the life-changing devastation, Kelly has begun to realize the long road ahead. 

“The reality hits you that, ‘Oh my gosh, I have nothing,’” she said. “At the same time, it’s bizarrely liberating. It’s an opportunity to grow as a human being.”

The outpouring of support from the community in just the first 24 hours was overwhelming. Kelly and Williams wanted to take that generosity one step further and give back as well.

“Helping others is part of our beliefs,” she said. “We have friends, family, resources and jobs. While this isn’t a tragedy, it’s more like a pretty big inconvenience.”

Because of that, the couple has asked anyone looking to help to make donations to local fire and rescue squads, homeless shelters, food pantries, or domestic violence services (DASI).

Kelly and Williams are currently staying with her parents in Mendham and the insurance company is helping them find temporary housing.

“The devastation is profound, but everything’s going to be OK," she said as she joked about the purchase of a new toothbrush. 

The homeowner was awed by the bravery, courage and total amount of firefighters who came out in poor weather conditions to attempt to save the home, she said.

A “safe haven” was how she described the home built on the land with breathtaking views. The property is too much for the couple to dismiss, she said, and they plan to build another home directly on that same piece of land.

“It might not be the same,” she said, “but we want to stay in Long Valley.”

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