Rusty Grant remembers the phone call that would forever change his life.
On June 28, Grant and his wife, Trish, and their daughter Kelly were attending the wake of a family friend and had stopped on the way home to get a bite to eat.
That’s when a neighbor called and said the water pressure had dropped at his home on Rise Lane in Indian Land. Odd, Grant thought, because he had just replaced the well outside his home. It sent up a red flag, but one that he thought would lead to a flooded kitchen.
It turned out to be much worse.
On their drive home, the Grants noticed smoke and, as they got closer, flames. As they approached the driveway, they could see their house engulfed in smoke and flames.
A neighbor, Mike Humphries, had tried to enter the house, but the doors were locked. As Grant approached the house, his first thought was to save the family dog, Toby.
“I saw all of the smoke, but I wanted to get my dog,” he said. “I opened the front door and smoke was so thick you couldn’t see anything.”
He tried crawling, lower to the ground, but the smoke was too thick. He picked up a vase and threw it through his daughter’s window – the dog had a special bond with Kelly – but he couldn’t find Toby.
Pleasant Valley firefighters did find Toby in Kelly’s room, but it as too late. He had been overcome by soot and smoke.
The house was mostly a total loss, too.
“It completely burned up half of the house,” Grant said.
“The other half was completely ruined by smoke damage. The fire was right there at me and my wife’s bedroom, so who knows what would have happened had we been home or, even worse, sleeping. It’s scary to think about.”
The fire was likely caused by an exhaust fan in the bathroom, although a water heater sat underneath the room and could have been the culprit as well and explain the drop in water pressure, officials said.
Either way, the fire was devastating.
Grant estimates that about 2 percent of what was in the house survived the fire. One thing that did was a cedar chest that his grandmother had given him years earlier. The chest was charred on the outside, but the contents inside were in pristine condition. It contained some family photos, his grandmother’s Bible and other keepsakes, but not much more could be saved from the Grants’ house.
“You get to the other side of the house, and everything was completely ruined,” he said. “It has caught us by surprise, that’s for sure. My grandma always said, ‘In hard times communities come together’ and it’s never been more true than my house catching on fire. Churches have called to help. It has humbled me a lot.”
But there’s still much that needs to be done.
The Grants left the scene of the fire that night with the clothes on their back and little else. They are hoping to demolish the house and rebuild on the land that’s been passed down through the family for years, but the family needs help.
According to Rusty Grant’s cousin, Donna Alford, the family was under-insured and their insurance company not paying for the demolition. The family still owes money on their mortgage and is literally staring over from nothing.
Alford has begun a Gofundme page for the family, and the support has been steady, the family said. In about a month, they’ve already raised $5,305 of the $10,000 they are hoping for.
“The outpouring of support has been great,” Alford said.
“It’s heartwarming. People that I don’t know and even they don’t know have donated through the Gofundme account and through the fundraiser they did at Madison’s at the Corner (in Fort Mill). They had a bake sale and raffles and that generated almost $1,000. It shows there are good people who want to help when there is a tragedy.”
One such good Samaritan is Jane Tanner, president of the Indian Land Action Council.
“I didn’t know them, but I knew I could help,” said Tanner, the president of the Indian Land Action Council.
“The news was sent to me by a neighbor who is also an Indian Land Action Council member. She knew the family was going through a rough spot, that they had children and that they needed help, so we did what we could.”
Tanner and the Indian Land Action Council both donated. They are two of currently 74 people to contribute to the Gofundme page, but Tanner was happy to help.
“They were a neighbor and they asked us for help,” she said. “No other family has ever asked us for help, but we wouldn’t turn anyone down. It’s really sad.”
But the Grants are doing the best they can. They lived for a while at temporary housing and now are staying with friends in Indian Land, but they are making progress every day with the help of the community.
“The support has been tremendous from family and friends.” Grant said. “It’s been people I’ve known all my life or even strangers that have donated or that have come up to me and wish me all the luck in the world and try to help me out with clothes and food.”
The Grant’s aren’t back on their feet yet, though, and still need some things.
The No. 1 goal is to get the house torn down, but they will have to do it themselves or with the help of volunteers.
They need food, clothes, furniture, shoes, gas – everything, really, to restart their life.
“I’m really not sure what we need, to be honest,” Rusty Grant said. “We’ve had a lot of people offer, but right now I need to get my house on the ground. Once that’s done we will get to rebuilding.”
The Grants are slowly rebuilding everything and know in time they will put this behind them and move on, but in the meantime they are thankful for all of the support.
“It means so much to me,” Rusty Grant said.
“Fort Mill is the town I was born and raised in and I’ve always loved it here. With the support we’ve gotten and continue to get, it’s beyond love for the town now. I can’t believe all of the people that have reached out. It means so much to me and my family.
Want to help?
The Grant family’s Gofundme.com page can be found at gofundme.com/2byhvwvc, and several ways to help are listed.