Things were bad enough for Janine and John Bakanic after their house off North Bayview Road in Southold burned to the ground last Friday afternoon.
This week they took another hard blow when they learned their insurance company will cover only the cost of the materials they used to build the house 10 years ago.
The cost of materials a decade ago was half what they’d be today, Mrs. Bakanic said on Monday. “We’re only being covered for what we borrowed, not for rebuild costs or housing or contents,” she added. “If there’s anything people should know, they need to know that they have to insure their property for those things.
“We have family all right around us, but everything’s gone,” she said. She, her husband and their 12-year-old daughter Jessie are staying with Mrs. Bakanic’s parents in Southold.
“All the girls from my daughter’s sixth-grade class brought cupcakes, and all the neighbors have given us clothes, money and food. It’s so sweet.”
Family members live in the neighborhood around the charred remains of their house, where they keep three horses in a barn that was not affected by the fire. A dog also survived.
The family was on a trip to Riverhead when the Bakanics’ niece spotted the fire and rescued their German shepherd from an outdoor pen adjacent to the house at about 3:45 p.m. Friday. By the time firefighters arrived, the house was engulfed in flames.
One hundred firefighters from the Southold and Cutchogue fire departments, as well as a pumper truck from Greenport, were on the scene for nearly six and a half hours Friday afternoon and evening. Mrs. Bakanic said they brought in excavators to tamp down the smoldering ashes of the house. Members of the Greenport and Mattituck fire departments were on standby at the Southold firehouse while Southold firefighters were on the call.
“When we were in Riverhead, we were hysterical crying, but the whole way back, my daughter was patting me on the back and saying ‘Don’t worry mom. We’ll be OK,’ ” she said.
Mrs. Bakanic said that an arson investigator had told her that they would likely never know the cause because everything had burned to the ground.
“He said it was probably electrical, but we don’t know what it was.” Just before the fire broke out, “We had breakfast and left. It was a typical morning,” she said.
The Bakanics are members of the East End Livestock and Horsemen’s Association, which has been providing feed for the horses since the fire, and Agway in Southold has set up a fund to pay for the care of the horses as well as the family’s chickens.
“But all the saddles and the helmets burned in the fire,” Mrs. Bakanic said. “We just bought our daughter an Amish cart and that’s gone. I couldn’t care less about any of the contents of the house, but it hurts to think of what my daughter lost.”
“We’re going to have a hard time rebuilding. We’re basically going to have to beg and borrow,” she said. “If anyone wants to offer us building materials, that’s what we’re going to need. We’re thankful, we’re both working and we’re both healthy. It’s so hard to accept help, but sometimes you just have to.”
Mrs. Bakanic said that she still had a bag of clothes in her truck that she had been planning to donate to a thrift shop in
Riverhead Friday afternoon, when they got the call that their house was on fire.
Since the fire, Mrs. Bakanic said that many strangers have been coming up their long driveway to gawk at the ruins.
“They’re really being obtrusive, coming down here,” she said. “It’s terrible.”
But it’s the loss of family memorabilia that is the hardest part of losing her home.
“One lesson I would like anybody to get from this is get all your photos on a disk and get it out of your house. My firebox is in there somewhere, but who says it’s any good,” she said. “Losing the photographs is the worst.”