Morris family faces tragedy before holiday

By Shelby Harrell and DeeAnna Haney | Dec 19, 2013
Photo by: Shelby Harrell A house on Iron Duff Road was burned down on at about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, which boosted Angela and Chris Morris and their five children out of their temporary home.

Chris and Angela Morris and their five children didn’t deserve coal for Christmas, but after a chimney fire broke out, the house they were living in and all of their belongings turned to ash.

The Morrises and four of their children were inside the house on Iron Duff Road when the fire erupted, along with Brian Green, whose father owns the house.

“The children were real shook up that night,” Chris said.

Since the Morris family has yet to find a home of their own, Green had been letting them all stay in his house for the past few months. Chris was laid off from his job at Century Appliance Services last year, and currently works at the Sonoco plant in Bethel. Angela is a stay at home mom.

While the house was in flames, Chris made sure everyone made it out safely. He said two of his sons Michael, 7, and Brandon, 11, had to wait outside wearing nothing but their underwear and a blanket.

“We lost everything we had,” Chris said. “We lost all of Christmas — all our clothes, everything. We were not able to save anything.”

Junaluska Fire Chief Charles Wood said there was heavy smoke and flames coming from the living room windows when crews arrived on the scene shortly after 1 a.m. When the initial crew headed into the fire, part of the house exploded, knocking one fire fighter off the porch. He was treated at the hospital for a twisted knee.

Authorities believe the fire began in the chimney of the wood stove, which is a common cause for house fires this time of year. Wood suggested home owners have their chimneys professionally cleaned and inspected before heavy use in the winter to prevent house fires.

The Morris family is currently staying with family in Waynesville. The three-bedroom house is now serving as a home to 10 people, in addition to six dogs. Chris and Angela sleep on the couch and the children sleep on the floor.

“It’s a little crowded,” Chris said. “There’s not that much room really. We’re just trying to cope with what happened. Nobody ever expects something like this to happen to them.”

Chris said his biggest worry at the moment was trying to provide Christmas for his children since all of the presents were gone. He is trying to find a  new home for his family.

“It’s pretty much whatever I can get for them,” Chris said when asked about his plans for Christmas. “It’s really hard — it’s stressful and everything. I really don’t know how to take it. We’ll just do what we can for us to have a decent Christmas.”

The children missed school on Wednesday because they hadn’t slept and didn’t have clothes to wear. They returned to school on Thursday wearing clothes that had been donated.

Since word spread about the fire, dozens of organizations are getting involved to help the Morris family. So far, the family has received donations from Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, Toys 4 Tots, The First United Methodist Church, Hazelwood Elementary, Haywood Christian Ministry, the Sonoco plant, personal friends and others.

Angela is still in a state of shock and can’t talk about the fire without crying, but she did admit that the donations were a welcome relief.

“It means the world,” Angela said.

A couple of local women are also teaming up to hold a donation drive for the Morris family. Casey Eaker and Ashley Izzi have never met Chris or Angela, but have taken it upon themselves to try and raise money, clothes and toys for the children.

“We caught wind of this horrific tragedy through Ryan Conn, a friend of the Morris family,” Izzi said. “Donating to charities is heart-warming but actually knowing the family you're helping and seeing the affect your efforts have on those you help is the greatest gift of all.”

As of Thursday, only $75 had been raised on the online funding website, but Izzi and Eaker are planning to collect much more before it’s all done.

“We hope to replenish their everyday necessities such as toiletries, clothing, coats, gloves, and shoes, as well as toys for the children so that they can focus on creating a new home for their family,” Izzi said. “Every child deserves a wonderful Christmas morning, and we just knew we had to get a hold of Santa one way or another.”

To make a monetary donation online, visit http://www.gofundme.com/5tvevc. The website also includes clothing size information for each of the five children.

To donate toys, clothes or other items to the family, contact Izzi at 704-692-1083.

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