(Photo: Tyler Sizemore, AP)
Newtown, CT-- Residents are rallying to support a family whose home was destroyed by a fire Wednesday, three months after two of their children survived the shootings Dec. 14 that killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Hans and Audra Barth and their three young children were not in their Sandy Hook house when firefighters responded.
Newtown Fire Marshal Bill Halstead said firefighters fought the fire in the Barths' one-story home for 3 1/2 hours Wednesday and had to return to the home that night when a small fire in a wall rekindled.
Halstead said the fire started in the basement laundry room, but its cause has not been determined.
Two firefighters were injured, including one who was taken to a hospital and later released.
A family dog, Goliath, was killed, says Christine Wilford, who has a child at Sandy Hook school and has established a Web page for donations for the Barth family.
The Barths' 7-year-old son was in the first-grade class of Kaitlin Roig, a teacher who locked a classroom door and hid her students in a bathroom during the shootings.
Wilford says many families with children in Sandy Hook school have gotten to know one another better since the tragedy.
The Barths "are a very nice family that I am friendly with from school," Wilford says. "I felt a need to do something to help them - to tell them it's going to be okay, and we're going to get through this together."
Patricia Lansing, a religious education teacher at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, teaches one of the Barth children and says the Barths are "a very lovely family." She set up a fund through the church to assist them.
Wilford says Barth family members were at a school conference when their house caught fire. She says the family is in a hotel that was arranged by the Red Cross.
Lansing says donations can be sent to St. Rose Church, c/o Lansing, 46 Church Hill Rd., Newtown, Conn. Checks should be made out to St. Rose and "Barth" should be written on the memo line.
Monsignor Robert Weiss, the pastor of St. Rose, says the Barths "lost everything" in the fire, and the fund was established through the church "to help them rebuild their life."
Weiss says the Dec. 14 tragedy and the fire have been "overwhelming." The Barth's son - like so many others in Newtown - was traumatized by the Dec. 14 shootings and now has lost "his puppy, his toys and his home," the pastor says.
The Barth family, though, "is strong and doing their best to keep this all in perspective," Weiss says. The family attended a Good Friday service Friday afternoon at the church and is "grateful" for everyone's support, Weiss says.
Wilford, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, says donations can be given at www.gofundme.com/2fns60. She says all monies will be given to the Barth family except a fee to pay for the website.
As of Friday afternoon, $9,046 had been raised in one day since the fund was established.