BRATTLEBORO -- Last week a two-alarm fire destroyed the home of Peter Diamondstone and Doris Lake, leaving only charred remains of everything they owned.
The situation looked dire as the couple and their family members sifted through what little was left, but because of dozens of volunteers the family has persevered and knows they'll get through.
"Our first thought was, ‘What do we do now?'" Diamondstone said. "But I can't even get sad. I don't have time to be."
The reason, he said, is that as soon as people heard about the fire they started to show up with food, drinks, offers of places to stay and, on Friday, materials to build a tool shed and an RV for them to stay in.
Built by their son-in-law, Michael Kohout, and their grandson, Owen Diamondstone-Kohout, the tool shed will give the couple at least a small space to store what little they have left from the fire.
"The only time I experience the misery is when I'm alone, which is why I miss Doris so much when she's off doing something," Peter said. "I know in time it'll get better, so for now I'm so grateful for everyone's willingness to help out."
Almost everything Diamondstone and Lake owned was engulfed in flames so the couple is need of a stainless steel pot to cook with, a laptop computer to keep in touch with family members and a good chair for Peter to be able to get in and out of easily, said their daughter, Jess Diamondstone.
"There's been such an outpouring of support and help from the community," Jess said. "Our hope is that it'll continue when we need people this fall and maybe next spring to hang sheet rock and tile a new roof."
Since the fire, Diamondstone and Lake have been staying at the Dalem Chalet, which offered them a free room until Thursday night when all of their rooms had been booked.
"They were so gracious, everyone has been," Diamondstone said. "I can't believe how lucky we are."
Peter and Doris went to make something to eat at about 10 p.m. on July 2, and that's when they saw the bright orange and red flames crawling up the side of their home.
The couple was able to escape with their dog, Angel, but didn't have time to grab any valuables. They were left with only the scattered remains of their family heirlooms, trinkets and memories.
Along with their home, the fire destroyed a cottage they had built and planned to use as a rental.
The fire is just the most recent disaster the couple has faced. Last August the massive flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene lifted the cottage off its foundation and nearly swept it down river.
Diamondstone and Lake had to use most of their retirement savings to pay for repairs to the cottage and were planning to use the rental income to purchase fire insurance. They never got that opportunity.
The Diamondstone family said they wanted to thank the numerous donations and volunteer efforts from the Chelsea Royal Diner, Brattleboro Naturopathic Clinic, ReNew Salvage, Chelsea Roy, Kathy and Galen Kingston-Shaw, Richard Davis, Mary-Ellen Copeland, Robin Zegg, Karen Kibari, Ellen Luna, Lucy Tell, Suzanne Robinstein and so many others, Jess said.
Organizers are also needed to help put on fundraisers for Diamondstone and Lake. She said the best way to get more information or to volunteer is to send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Donations can be sent to the family through the Windham County Heat Fund by sending check or money order with "Diamondstone Fire" on the memo line to 679 Weatherhead Hollow Road, Guilford, Vt., 05301.
Josh Stilts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.