Couple loses home to fire

Register Reporter

Anne Kazmierczak/Register
Robert and Tawnya McClanahan stand in the ruins of their living room. The couple lost their home at 101 Lincoln St. in La Harpe to an early morning fire Tuesday.
A Tuesday morning fire destroyed the McClanahan home in LaHarpe.

LAHARPE — A LaHarpe couple lost their home and all its contents to fire in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
“We were in bed, already asleep,” said Tawnya Roloff McClanahan, who with her husband, Robert McClanahan, lived at the home at 101 Lincoln St.
“My husband heard something and he got up to check. He went to the living room and all he saw was smoke and an orange glow,” she said.
“I have bad hearing, but for some reason, it woke me up,” Robert said. “It was just a noise I’m not used to hearing. As soon as I stepped out of the bedroom, I realized it was the smoke alarm.”
The couple’s bedroom opened into their living room. The fire lay ahead of them, to the front of the house. They retreated to their room and broke out a window to escape.
“For some reason, it didn’t want to break,” Robert said of the window. “I kicked it. I hit it with a hammer, and it wouldn’t break.”
After hitting the window three times with the hammer, the pane gave way.
“Then she threw me through the storm window and the screen,” Robert said of his wife.
“He didn’t get a scratch on him,” Tawnya said, although she added, “he landed wrong.”
Tawnya works as a personal care attendant. “I always set my phone and glasses right there next to my bed. Because I’m on call, I never know when I’ll need to go.” She grabbed them as soon as Robert woke her with news of the fire, and the couple was able to call the fire department.
“The first call when out around 2 a.m.,” she said.
At 8 o’clock Tuesday morning, firefighters were still on the scene.
The fire flared back up around 5 p.m. that day, Robert said. And at noon Wednesday, while meeting with the insurance adjuster outside the home, he looked up and saw smoke. “The blown-in insulation was smoldering,” he said.
A fire investigator called in by the couple’s insurance company determined the cause to be a short in wiring to the water heater.
In what’s left of the bathroom, a double layer of Sheetrock hangs between the ruined room and the McClanahan’s bedroom.
“According to the insurance adjuster, that was the only thing between us and the fire,” Robert said.

THE FIRE means a total loss for the McClanahan’s.
“We couldn’t save much,” Tawnya said. “Ninety-five percent of our clothes are stained, singed, burned or smoked.”
Tawnya left home in what she was wearing. “I don’t have any shoes,” she said.
Robert’s one remaining pair of shoes are covered in soot. All his tools are gone.
“I probably had $2,000 to $3,000 worth of tools,” he said.
He was just beginning his own business, T & R Roofing and Renovation. He lost carpentry, roofing and remodeling tools.
Within an hour of her calling them, some friends had found them a complete set of dishes and a bed.
“We’re all struggling for money, but we had promised we would always be there for each other,” Tawnya said.
Still, she said, “We need everything else.”
Tawnya wears size 28 or above women’s clothes, and size 61⁄2 to 71⁄2 wide shoes. Robert could use pants, size 36 x 32, and 2x shirts. He also needs a pair of work boots, size 101⁄2 men’s wide.
The couple is being assisted by the local Red Cross, who provided them with a voucher for some clothes and Robert’s medication.
Reach the couple at 228-3170.

ONE THING the couple didn’t lose is their faith in each other.
“In my mind,” Tawnya said, “My son and my husband are the most important things to me.”
Tawnya’s 11-year-old son, Timothy, lives in rural La Harpe with her parents, Tim and Carol Roloff. The couple are now staying there as well.
Timothy is “extremely excited that we’re staying there,” Tawnya said of the new arrangement.
“He’s been wanting us to come live with them forever,” Robert added.
Tawnya and Robert married two years ago, then moved to La Harpe to be closer to her family. They were in the process of purchasing the home on contract for deed from a neighbor, Marilyn Boyd.
Ironically, the couple had removed gas lines from the house because, years before, there had been a gas fire there.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” Robert said.
Tawnya agreed. After being treated for exposure to smoke, she said, “I kept thinking I could go home.”