The lighting of a candle on Christmas turned into a tragedy for a Jackson County family after their house burned down.
The fire happened in the 1400 block of Wartrace Highway in Whitleyville around 11 a.m. Friday, after the family had just got home from a relative's house.
“The kids had just opened their presents here,” Kelly Coles, a victim of the fire, said.
While the Coles family was downstairs in their home, an unattended candle upstairs somehow started a fire that quickly got out of hand.
Jim Coles ran upstairs with a fire extinguisher to try to douse the fire, but the flames spread too quickly.
“I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe, I sprayed it. Nothing happened,” Jim Coles said.
Knowing there was nothing they could do, the family ran out of the home with only their five dogs and the clothes on their back. One of the children, a 14-year-old girl, didn’t even have her shoes on at the time.
After about an hour of watching their home burn, everything inside was destroyed.
“We accumulated a lot of stuff, a lot of memories,” Jim said. “Everything’s gone. I couldn’t get back in there to save nothing.”
After sifting through the ashes on Saturday, the family was able to find small mementos, like a ring that had been in the family for decades, but what was lost in the fire is what was on their minds.
The family lost clothes, schoolbooks and supplies, their Christmas gifts, everything they had in their lives.
“I can’t afford to build a new house. I wish I could, but I can’t,” Jim said.
For now the family has been left with the memories they shared at the home and their lives.
“It’s hard to move on, but there’s nothing we can do,” Jim said.
The family has now been staying with relatives, but they will have to start over from scratch.