COURT HOUSE – A pair of little girls’ princess shoes and a Buzz Lightyear toy were practically all that remained in the rubble of a house fire inside a trailer park off Route 9 in Court House Dec. 10.
No one was home at the time of the accident, according to Cape May Court House Volunteer Fire Department Chief John McCann.
Trevor Buckingham, who lived in the home with his two young children, had just left to work at COHO Brewing Co., his mother Karen Buckingham’s business, after sending his children off to school.
By the time Karen Buckingham’s son returned, there was little left. He and his children, Chase, 4, and Charlette, 2, moved in with her.
“We’re just telling them they’re living at grandmom’s house for Christmas,” she said in an interview. The family doesn’t want the young children to be afraid of fires, so they are telling them little about the reason for the move.
Her son, Buckingham said, is staying strong and is mainly worried about the irreplaceable items his children no longer have.
“My son isn’t upset about any of his stuff. His main thing when he dropped to his knees at the fire was Char can’t sleep without her lovey. She needs her lovey,” Buckingham said, explaining that was the name for the young girl’s pacifier.
Buckingham said she returned to the scene of the blaze with her son and went into “auto-pilot” mode, trying to put emotion aside and dig through the rubble to find any salvageable remains.
In 2 feet of water, in black muck, under the remnants of a bed, Buckingham said she found something that caught her eye.
“We found Buzz (Lightyear) and that was one of Chase’s favorite toys,” she said. “Buzz was really bad, and we didn’t think he would be salvageable, but I soaked him and bleached him.”
After getting the toy cleaned up and concocting a story for why the action figure’s speaking feature no longer worked, suddenly Buzz talked again.
Buckingham said two fish also miraculously survived the fire and firefighters took photos off the family’s walls while the house was ablaze and laid them on the lawn.
McCann said smoke was coming from the roof when his department arrived on the scene and his company received mutual aid from Stone Harbor Fire Department, Green Creek Fire Department, Rio Grande Fire Department, Goshen Fire Department and Middle Township EMS. Firefighters entered the structure and pulled the ceiling down to fight the fire in the ceiling, McCann said, adding that it took about 30 minutes to fight the blaze after arriving around 12:45 p.m.
The cause of the fire is under a routine investigation by the Cape May County Fire Marshal’s Office. None of the surrounding trailers were damaged and there were no injuries, according to McCann.
According to Buckingham, investigators told her the fire began with an exhaust fan in the attic above a bathroom.
John Reilly, a Cape May Point resident, saw a post on Buckingham’s Facebook page about what had happened. He jumped into action, contacting Buckingham, whom he had never met, and insisting on helping the family.
“Around this time of year, when something like this happens, it just bothered me,” Reilly said. “Please focus your story on that family.”
Reilly set up a fire relief fund account at TD Bank in Court House. Donations to the family can be made there, at 409 Route 9. Buckingham said donations could also be dropped off at the brewery, 28 Indian Trail Road, Unit 103, in Court House.
“We’re overwhelmed. We can’t believe we’re in this situation right now. You read about other people in this situation,” Buckingham said. “To find yourself in this situation two weeks before Christmas is just a shock. You try to just get up each day and go forward with all the positives that you can find in it, and there are a lot of blessings and positives in it.”
To contact Shay Roddy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.