Little salvaged from charred home

Michele Hattman looks for salvageable items in what is left of her Hephzibah home after a fire destroyed it early Tuesday.

A few of the sentimental items Michele Hattman found within the remains of her Hephzibah home Saturday were the antique rocking chair that her mother rocked her to sleep in, and the day bed her parents gave her when she first moved out on her own.

"We're trying to rescue what little we can. There's nothing salvageable in the kitchen or my bedroom," said Hattman of her single-wide mobile home, which burned Tuesday.

About 20 friends and family members came out on Saturday to salvage items and then tear down the rest of the home and remove the debris.

Hattman, who owns Costumes by Michele on Broad Street, had spent the previous weekend working the Blue Man Group shows at the Bell Auditorium. On Monday night, she lit a candle in the kitchen to freshen the room and headed to the living room to watch television.

She planned to blow out the candle before heading to bed. Unfortunately, she fell asleep in the living room and woke around 4 a.m. Tuesday to the smell of smoke.

The kitchen and her bedroom were completely engulfed in flames.

Her two cats, Snickers and Midnight, died in the fire. Hattman said Snickers didn't like items on the kitchen counters and wondered if the cat had knocked off the candle.

Chasity Bray rallied some of her friends to help out Saturday.

Bray, who is part of a performing group called the Boondock Mafia, said Hattman has given a lot of time and guidance to group members over the past year. Bray saw the clean-up as a practical way to give back to someone who has invested in many area arts groups.

"Without her, how much would the arts suffer?" Bray said.

Hattman said she is taking everything day to day. Her hope is to be able to rebuild her life on the same property and be near her stepmother. Hattman's father died in July.

Since Tuesday, Hattman said the community response to her situation has been overwhelming.

Hattman, who spent 24 years working in costumes at Fat Man's before starting her own business, didn't have any insurance on her mobile home. She spent the last three years pumping her money into her Broad Street business, she said.

People have dropped off gift cards and clothing at Hattman's store, and one person brought a key to a home he has, which is currently vacant, and told her she could use it as long as she needed.

Area businesses have been holding fundraisers for her, and the phone calls and Facebook posts from well-wishers are being logged in a book because there have been so many, she said.