Community rallies behind Cobb family devastated by home blaze
by Nikki Wiley
February 18, 2014 04:00 AM | 17990 views | 8 8 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Gernatt family was awakened just after midnight Sunday morning to find their detached garage on fire. The blaze ripped through to the family’s 4,500-square-foot home destroying everything in its way, including six automobiles, a boat and a trailer.
The Gernatt family was awakened just after midnight Sunday morning to find their detached garage on fire. The blaze ripped through to the family’s 4,500-square-foot home destroying everything in its way, including six automobiles, a boat and a trailer.
MARIETTA — A family who lost everything in a massive fire Sunday said they are overwhelmed by the outpouring of financial and emotional support they have received from their west Cobb community.

The Gernatt family was awakened just after midnight Sunday morning to find their detached garage on fire. The blaze ripped through to the family’s 4,500-square-foot home destroying everything in its way, including six automobiles, a boat and a trailer.

It took 10 fire trucks and 26 Cobb firefighters to combat the fire at the house on Bob Cox Road between Dallas Highway and Burnt Hickory Road. The cause of the fire is still unknown but appeared to be accidental, said Daniel Dupree, spokesman for Cobb Fire Department.

A 7-month-old baby and a 2-year-old were in the home but no one was injured.

Tom Gernatt and wife, Melanie, along with his eight siblings are Cobb natives and graduates of Wheeler High School. Their five children also graduated from Cobb schools, three attending Walton High School and two attending Kell High School.

They have 13 grandchildren with a 14th on the way.

Tom Gernatt, a local homebuilder, said it’s overwhelming to think the family has lost all of their possessions. Those losses include the tools he spent 40 years collecting that lined his garage workshop.

“I can go buy new ones, but they won’t have the same story,” he said.

The upper-middle class family isn’t used to asking for help.

“We have always been people who didn’t need much. Now we’re in need. It’s humbling,” said Tom Gernatt, who owns the home with his wife.

As he stood in the yard of his 10-year home on Monday surveying its charred remains, Tom Gernatt tried to find a silver lining while holding back tears.

“It’s just been a remarkable experience for us,” he said.

Donations of clothing, vehicles, food and a place to stay have poured in since early Sunday morning. The couple’s church, Cedarcrest Church in Acworth, took an offering to help the family.

Tom Gernatt has been astounded by the compassion of his neighbors.

“I had people handing me gift cards and I don’t even know who they are,” he said.

The family has two vehicles to use until they get back on their feet, loaned by Day Chevrolet in Acworth.

Andrew Diemer, principal at the dealership’s Jasper location, attends a Bible study with the Gernatts and called them a “giving couple.”

“This was kind of just close to the heart to us,” said Diemer, who loaned the cars to the couple along with his brother Daniel, principal at the Acworth dealership.

Firefighters and strangers have also stopped to pray with the family.

“God has totally blessed us,” said Melanie Gernatt, standing on the porch of her home Monday collecting items that were salvageable.

A stranger passed the home Sunday on her way to church and saw the destruction, Tom Gernatt said, and returned with coffee and cinnamon rolls for the family.

“That’s what just amazed me,” Tom Gernatt said.

Many people don’t stop or offer help, he said, because they fear they won’t be able to make a difference, but that woman lifted the family’s spirits with just coffee and pastries.

Still, Tom Gernatt said he wants to put the tragedy behind him, move on and make new memories.

But that’s proving difficult as the family cannot begin cleanup until an insurance adjuster examines the damage.

“I had a claim number at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning,” he said.

As of Monday afternoon, the family had not heard back from their insurance agency, Allstate.

“Fortunately we have the community that’s rallied around us and they weren’t paid to do it,” Tom Gernatt said.

Daniel Groce, Allstate spokesman, said late Monday afternoon the company has been in touch with the family.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Samuel Adams
February 21, 2014
To Ms. Tana, I don't know what your politics are, and I don't care. I also don't care what the fire victims' politics are. Nor do I care what "class" they are. Which was my POINT.

Don't shame on ME. Shame on the way this country has come to accept this class warfare, and shame on the reporter who doesn't know better than to perpetuate it. I don't use my name for a very good reason, but that's the beauty of these comments. Please put the comments in perspective. If you don't see that President Obama has divided the country based on race and bank account values, then that's YOUR problem.
February 19, 2014
Why was a single family home allowed anyway to have six cars, a boat, and a trailer in Cobb County?
Samuel Adams
February 18, 2014
I had a visceral reaction to this reporter's classification of these homeowners as "upper middle class." Since when are we dividing Americans into these categories for our news reports? Would it be appropriate to say of another theoretical victim of a tragedy, "The lower middle class family is on welfare, and is used to getting government subsidies...."

Ms. Nikki, when you already talked about the value of their home, you gave yourself away. Funny how we can't "profile" anyone except the "upper middle class." This type of division is, sadly, what we have after so many years of the Great Divider, Obama.
Tana Butler
February 18, 2014
It's unconscionable that you would drag President Obama into this family's personal tragedy.

Melanie was a classmate of mine at Wheeler. A sweeter young woman you would never meet. She endeared herself further to me at our 20th high school reunion by remembering me—despite my lack of glasses, braces, and acne. Her brother, Johnny, is also a champ.

You have no idea if this family votes Democrat or otherwise. And for SHAME that you use this story as a soapbox for your bleating.

Nobody was doing any profiling. That word would be better off forgotten.

We're all just people, and who cares if they have six cars? It doesn't say "six Lexuses" or "six Rolls Royces." Or even "six homes." One home, one large family with a ton of grandchildren…one happy marriage with a lot of love to go around.

Yes, this is my real name. I've got the courage to use it.

Upper middle class
February 18, 2014
Are you serious? Upper middle class? 4500 square foot home, 6 cars, a boat and trailer. That is not what I would deem as upper middle class. I think they are beyond UMC. I am sorry for anyone who has a loss in a fire and glad they are all safe. Your definition of classes is a little obscure. I am still laughing at the statement,"We are a family that does not need much." Really? Most people do not own a 4500 home and have 6 cars. I am glad all of them are safe because that is what is important.
Get a life
February 18, 2014
You all have serious problems, if you are worried about the classification of what class this family is, instead of worrying about what you could do to help this family or others that need it.

If the reporter knows of any places that have been set up to offer donations please let me know as i would like to help.
famly friend
February 18, 2014
I don't know the entire family, just one of the daughter in-laws with the seven month old and both she and her husband's car burnt up in the fire. Apparently it was a large family gathering so to say all six cars that were destroyed belonged to the homeowners it's inaccurate. The reporter did not say that anyway.
Are YOU serious?
February 18, 2014
Don't judge when you don't know. This family was constantly allowing friends and family to stay over, and as mentioned in the article, several were there that night. Just because they have 6 cars destroyed doesn't mean all 6 were their own. On the news tonight it showed one car was an old classic that the owner had since dating his wife. And he was a home builder, doesn't that constitute the owning of a trailer? Again, don't judge...there is more than you know and all you should be saying is that you're happy lives were saved and praising the fire department for their work and the community for their support.
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