Lessons from a fire: Dearing family plans to rebuild

Abby Klein, Reporter

We’ve all answered the question: If your house was on fire, what three things would you grab? On September 16th, this question was reality for Brad Dearing. At two in the morning, Dearing did not wake up to a fire alarm, but the “sound of hail,” which turned out to be his home quickly catching aflame.

Dearing ran downstairs and got everyone out of the house safely. He then ran back inside of the burning home and grabbed the home phone to call 911.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’ll go back in and see if I could be able to salvage something or get pictures or a computer or anything,’” Dearing said.

By the second time he went back inside, the house was too smoky and too dangerous for anyone to be inside. The family waited outside for 20 minutes until the fire trucks, police, ambulance, paramedics, and other help arrived. No person or animal was harmed in the fire.

“Literally T-shirts, shorts, and bare feet and a cell phone was all we had,” Dearing said.

The Dearing family stayed in a hotel in Bloomington-Normal for a few weeks which interrupted some of the farm work right away. All electricity and wells were unavailable because of the fire’s destruction, so they had to work with neighbors to get water and food for the animals. Dearing said he is grateful for the community outreach and support he has received.

“”The GoFundMe was huge because it helped us get through before the insurance kicked in, and it still hasn’t fully [kicked in] yet – we’re still in the midst of all that – but it’s definitely been a blessing,” Dearing said. “People’s cards, donations, clothes, furniture, places to stay, and toys were all appreciated.”

Kirsten Hany, a teacher at U-High and friend of the Dearing family, helped organize the Go Fund Me. The Go Fund Me raised $22,150 by 330 people in one month. She also organized a donation fundraiser at Metcalf to help get the Dearing kids toys, clothes, and shoes. Parents of Metcalf also jumped in and helped donate items that the Dearing family can put in their temporary home in Normal.

“I wanted to get something out as fast as possible, because I didn’t want four or five other different fundraisers going on. Seeing the community come together as one and raise this much money just blew me away,” Hany said.

Despite the magnitude of loss, Dearing said his family has taken away a valuable lesson: the difference between wants and needs.

“We were classified as homeless. We had no home, no clothes, and I can’t understate the fact of nothing. People kind of take for granted the things that they have and that they are used to.” Dearing said

”I ask my kids periodically, ‘Is there something that you need or want?’ And it’s been interesting for them in a way to realize the difference between needs and wants, and myself and my wife included, but what do we truly need?” Dearing asked.  “We need a bed and a meal, those are the things you need, It’s just a perspective that I think most of us as Americans most of us don’t have. It’s given us an opportunity for us to reflect on that and same with the kids.”.

Dearing plans to rebuild at Dearing Country Farms, but is still in the process of cleaning up residue from the fire. They plan on making some slight structural changes, although there still was no determination of how the fire started.