Nationwide support helping farmer after fire destroys family home of 100 years

The legacy 85-year-old James Fortune built was that of one of the area's first black farmers.

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO. - Down a dirt road in rural Maryland Heights sits a house on a piece of land with history that dates back more than 100 years.

“My great grandparents were here first. And it just moved down the line after that,” said Angela Davis.

Most recently, the property belonged to James Fortune, 85. It’s where he built his life as a husband and a father to Davis and her five siblings.

“When you’re used to being somewhere most of your life, it’s hard to make a change,” she said.

It’s also where he built his legacy as one of the area’s first black farmers.

“My dad has never asked for anything in his life. He always worked,” Davis said.

But a freak lightning strike last Wednesday caused all of that to go up in flames.

“Within two minutes, the house was full of smoke and he couldn’t see,” Davis said.

A massive fire engulfed Fortune’s home, forcing him to crawl to safety without getting a chance to save anything but himself.

“His best option was to crawl out so that’s what he did,” Davis said, noting that a nearby police officer provided assistance as well.

Generations of family memories and heirlooms, meanwhile, turned to ash as the blaze was far too advanced for firefighters to stop it by the time they arrived.

Davis said, “It’s bad all the memories are gone and all the things are gone, but my dad’s life was spared.”

Now, she’s having to balance her life with taking care of him at her house as they both figure out what happens next.

“If something happens, there’s nothing you can do about it. All you can do is move forward,” she said.

But it’s clear they’ll have plenty of help along the way. More than $12,000 has already been raised on a GoFundMe page for Fortune.

Davis said she’s also receiving money and sympathy cards from people in the community.

“We’re so thankful and so appreciative,” she said.


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