Fire victim gets a jump on rebuilding

84-year-old said making a list of items lost ‘the worst part’
By: Jenifer Gee, Journal staff writer
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It’s been a month since the 49 Fire and the 63 empty plots where homes once stood no longer are the most remarkable sight of the neighborhood. Instead, it’s the new wood frame that’s standing tall on the top of Oak Mist Lane. In only a month, contractors have started rebuilding Hector Launier’s three-bedroom, two-bathroom home that he had lived in for 20 years until it burned Aug. 30 in the devastating blaze. “It’s odd when you ride up around there and it’s the only lot with construction to speak of right now,” Launier said Tuesday. While there is another home in the neighborhood where foundation work appears to be in progress, Launier said he got a “big jump” on his reconstruction project because he immediately knew the excavator he wanted to hire – Freed’s Excavating – and the building contractor that his family knew – Dusty Hawkins. Contractor Dusty Hawkins owner of Hawkins Construction, said he got a call from Launier about four to five days after the fire asking if he would rebuild the 84-year-old man’s home. Hawkins, whose company was owned by two generations of Hawkins before him, said he’s known the Launier family for a long time. He’s known the area where the Launiers built their home even longer. He remembers as a kid fishing and swimming in the ditch behind Launier’s home and riding his motorcycle when the hill was just a hill. “I was hiding here from my dad on Saturdays when I knew I’d have to go to work,” Hawkins said. On Tuesday, he was at the same hill but this time working to rebuild Launier’s home, which he said would take about 90 to 120 days. Hawkins said he hopes to complete construction by Christmas. In the meantime, Launier will stay in a rental home he found through his insurance company. However, despite a quick start toward constructing his original residence, Launier knows it will take longer to recover some of the mementos, furniture and decorations that made his house a home. Many of the antiques he and his late-wife, Isabelle, collected during their almost 60 years together, will never be replaced. He said “the worst part” is trying to make a list of everything he lost in the fire. Insurance calculates the depreciation of items and then pays homeowners a difference. “You’ve got to try to remember everything in every room, hidden in every cabinet, in every window box or whatever you’ve got stuff stored in,” Launier said. “My wife and I accumulated everything over 60 years. How do you remember all these things?” Jenifer Gee can be reached at