BAY MINETTE, Alabama — The Bay Minette community is rallying around a family who lost their home in an early morning fire last week.
“It’s something that I’ve seen dozens of times, but you never think it will happen to you,” Jason Kolbe said. “It’s all very overwhelming.”
A deputy in the K9 Unit with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department, Kolbe came home in the early morning hours of April 22 after being called to a late-night crime scene with his K9 partner.
After putting up his K9 partner in a kennel behind the house, and not wanting to disturb his wife Liz, a dental hygienist who has been out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic, who was asleep in their bedroom, along with their 9-year-old son Hudson who had crawled into bed with her, Kolbe went into the living room where he fell asleep on the couch.
At around 3 in the morning, Kolbe said, he woke to a popping sound. Apparently, his wife was awakened by the sound too, he said, because she came out of the bedroom asking what it was.
“We have double doors in the front with glass all around,” he said. “Looking out the front window, I saw a glow and at first (being still half asleep) I thought it was the sun.”
But he quickly realized it was still dark outside and the glow they were seeing was fire coming from the Kolbe’s roof. Kolbe said the popping sound he and his wife heard must have been the beams cracking overhead. Officials believe the fire was caused by an electrical short in the attic, Kolbe said.
While his wife went to get their son from their bedroom, Kolbe roused his daughter, 15-year-old Kadence, from her bedroom, gathered what they could and escaped.
“I went to get my partner out of his kennel and by the time I got him out, the house was crumbling in on itself,” Kolbe said. “It’s just amazing how blessed we are. I talked with the fire chief and the fire marshal and they said we were literally two minutes away from being in the house when it collapsed.”
While the house is a total loss and they lost pretty much everything they owned except for what they had on, including computers, cell phones and other electronics considered essential in today’s world, Kolbe said, he considers himself blessed that he and all of his family, including pets and his K9 partner, were able to get out alive.
“We have great insurance and we’re just waiting to see what happens there,” he said. “The house can be replaced, our stuff can be replaced, but I still have my family and that’s something that couldn’t be replaced.”
Then there’s the outpouring of support from surrounding neighbors and the entire Bay Minette community.
While the fire was still blazing, one neighbor, Kolbe said, came with a truck and with the help of firefighters, was able to pull the Kolbe’s travel trailer out from under an awning attached to the house. Kolbe was able to set up the travel trailer behind the house and that is where they temporarily call home.
Almost immediately, Kolbe said, people began arriving with donations of food, clothing and other essentials.
“People that I don’t even know would show up at our door crying wanting to know how they can help,” Kolbe said. “I can’t say enough how much we appreciate everyone who has come forward during this time.”
There is a Go Fund Me account said up where you can donate to the Kolbe family (https://www.gofundme.com/f/1zj57f5eo0). As of Friday, 284 people had donated nearly $25,000 to the account, well over the $15,000 goal. There is also a Venmo account set up (@reneemorrison) and you can sign up to donate meals to the Kolbe family (https://takethemameal.com/meals.php?t=RQEV1802).
Two local businesses held fundraisers for the family through online raffles.
Southern Gyp Boutique sold raffle tickets for $10 each on its VIP Group Facebook page with 100 percent of the money going to the Kolbe family.
Owner Crystal Peavy said the site went live at 9 p.m. April 22 and continued until 9 p.m. April 24 with the live drawing Saturday morning. As of noon Friday, they had received nearly 240 entries.
“We certainly didn’t expect that many entries, but I’m not surprised,” Peavy said. “The Bay Minette community has always stepped up to help when needed and they deserve all the credit. We’re just trying to do what we can to help out.”
The drawings was for a bundled package including: a Bay Minette large décor sign; a set of Bay Minette coasters; a Bay Minette picture ornament; a 36507 (Bay Minette zip code) ornament; a Bay Minette, AL mug; an Alabama-themed tea towel; and a Bay Minette signature T-shirt (sizes small to XXL).
Since the response was so great, Peavy said, she was considering adding more prizes so that another person would have a chance to win during Saturday’s drawing.
Tammy Reed, owner of Cakes by Tammy Reed, is also selling tickets at $5 each on her Facebook page with five chances to win the following: a combo tray of chocolate chip cookies and brownies; a New Style cheesecake with choice of topping; a Reese’s cake; a Snickers cake; and two dozen assorted cupcakes.
Drawings will be held Wednesday, April 29 and deliveries will be made on the same day as the drawing.
“This is something that is close to my heart, since he works for the Sheriff’s Department and my brother (Tyler) is also a deputy with the Sheriff’s Department,” Tammy Reed said. “Bay Minette is still a small community and I just could not imagine especially during this time to lose everything. We just wanted to do everything we could to help them.”
Jason Kolbe said they were in the middle of renovations when the fire happened and while they are devastated to lose the home, they plan to rebuild as soon as possible.
“We’ve always taken great pride in our home,” he said. “We are known in the neighborhood for going all out, decorating for Halloween and have won awards for our Christmas decorations. We will be back and again we can’t stress enough how blessed we are and how appreciative we are to the community for all they’ve done for us.”