After a couple dozen house fires and dealing with their aftermath and consequences, Richmond firefighter Jesse Baust wanted to do something about the plight of families left devastated.
"You run into a burning building, you put that fire out," Baust says, "and you come out to see the
homeowner on the curb in tears. Everything is lost."
Sometimes owners are of limited means and are left with few choices for resuming their lives. "When an accidental fire happens, they have nothing but the shirt on their back. Let them start fresh."
In late 2011, he began forming the idea for what became Fighting More Than Fire. As a third-generation firefighter, Baust knew about putting out blazes but not as much about what happened after the trucks pulled away.
He spoke with fire insurance investigators and discussed possibilities with his wife, Lauren, a teacher. He enlisted the help of neighbor Sandy Appleman whose financial, business development and urban planning experience — in addition to serving on the board for the nonprofit To The Bottom And Back bus — fit the vision.
"I just happen to like filling out all that compliance paperwork that a nonprofit has to go through," Appleman says. "And I enjoy serving in the community. This is another way of doing that."
Board member Kyle Bradley, whose background is in construction and development, provided nitty-gritty details. Fighting More Than Fire came to life as a nonprofit in April 2012. The mission: to rebuild lives and restore dreams of those forced out of their homes by fire.
"It'll be a kind of ‘extreme makeover' for a house," Baust says. "Tear everything out of it and start over."
But this — and also providing a scholarship for firefighters' children — requires money, at least $150,000 to start.
A golf tournament is slated for June 10 at the Federal Club, and a Tough Man-esque competition is being planned, among other fundraising events. For more details, visit fightingmorethanfire.org . —