From all outside appearances the house at 1013 E. South St. looks intact, but inside 81-year-old Bernadell Lilly looked about her fire-devastated home Thursday morning not knowing where to begin.
"I've lived here for 40 years," she said. "I don't know how I can even begin a list of what's been lost."
Her home was destroyed in a Dec. 26 fire that originated in the basement and kept the Marshalltown Fire Department on scene for three hours.
Six weeks prior to the fire, Lilly had asked her granddaughter Stephanie Anderson and her family to move in with her.
"My husband passed away a year ago," Lilly said. "And I can't stand to be alone. I'm too much of a sissy."
Stephanie, her husband Ryan and their two children, ages 8 and 1, were still unpacking and getting organized when they went with Lilly to celebrate Christmas with relatives in Wisconsin.
T-R PHOTO BY ABIGAIL PELZER
Stephanie Anderson takes inventory Thursday of possessions lost during a Dec. 26 fire at the home where her grandmother had lived for 40 years. Anderson and her family had moved in with 81-year-old Bernadell Lilly recently.
"We were on our way home when we got a call saying that our house was on fire," Anderson said.
Marshalltown Fire Chief Steve Edwards said the investigation determined it was an accidental fire. An insurance inspector said it was possibly an electrical fire and the home is considered a total loss, Anderson said.
"When we drove up that night, we thought 'gee this doesn't look so bad,'" Lilly said. "You have to walk inside to see the damage."
Lilly and Anderson were at the home Thursday taking inventory of lost possessions and looking for items that might be salvaged by ServiceMaster.
Lilly worked in the living room of the four-bedroom home, pointing out smoke-damaged family pictures she's hopeful can be restored.
The Andersons, whom had occupied the basement level of the home, have found very few items worth saving.
"Everything is gone - the only things we had was what we packed for Wisconsin," Anderson said. "It's just a mess. How can you do inventory when you can't even tell what stuff is?"
The family has been staying at the Comfort Inn in Marshalltown, however, the Andersons signed a lease on a townhouse this week where they will continue to live together with Lilly.
If there has been a bright spot in the experience it's been the outpouring of support from the community, Anderson said.
"People have been awesome, especially to the kids - they've got clothes and toys and all kinds of stuff," she said.
Word of their displacement spread on Facebook and soon people that didn't even know the family had dropped items off to the hotel, she said. The family has received enough clothing, but Lilly is still in need, Anderson said.
"She's such a light packer she hardly had anything with her when we went to Wisconsin," Anderson said.
If people are still interested in helping the family, a giftcard would be helpful to get Lilly some clothing items, she said.