Family recovers from fire
Howard and Kregg Herz will be attending a convention in Las Vegas this week. It is the same convention they were attending this time last year- the same time their house was destroyed in the Autumn Hills fire.
They’re not too worried about leaving again, they said.
In the blaze last June, Kregg and Howard and their daughter Marce lost their 92-year-old house and the largest numismatic library in the state, valued between $40,000 and $50,000.
The only thing left from the fire is a fire safe, containing photo negatives of coins.
Thankfully, items from the couple’s gaming artifacts busniess were not in the house.
“Right now, our business is temporarily located. We are continuing with auction and mail order sales in gaming artifacts,” Howard said.
The Herzes are currently rebuilding two homes on their lot in the Foothills, a main house and a guest house. A guest house will replace the house rented by Gavin and Jennifer Sutherland, who also lost everything.
Since the fire, the Sutherlands have moved to Colorado, according to Kregg.
“We have the best piece of property in the Valley,” Kregg said, explaining why they chose to stay in the same spot.
“Why isn’t anyone else leaving? Everyone else is still there,” Howard said. “You can’t live on the premise you have to change everything.
“It was the circumstances of the moment. We had the equipment to fight the fire, but we weren’t there.
“Most of the fuel is gone, and I don’t think it’s going to happen again. The odds of it happening are not that great.”
“It’s Nevada; we’re taking a gamble,” Kregg laughs.
Howard relates losing their home to being on a trip for a little too long. “It’s extremely destablizing. You tend to lose your sense of home,” he said.
Since the fire, Howard said they are more conscious of what is important.
“First of all, we’re probably a little more realistic in life. We have fewer worries about things that are material. We’re dealing with more personal things than material things.
“We’re also more conscious of how we use our time. The one thing you lose in a fire or disaster is the ability to control your time. You find a lot of your time goes to reconstructing your life.
“In general, we had a lot of things to do. Until you’ve been through this kind of thing, you don’t know what is involved.”
This is the second fire for Kregg. In 1977, her family lost their Michigan home and ranch to a fire.
“You would think you would never go through it again,” she said.
Both Howard and Kregg believe the punishment given to the boys who admitted to setting the fire was just; however, they each had different problems with some terms of the punishment.
“I think given the circumstances and situation, it was the maximum sentence,” Howard said. “I think they should clean up the land because they would learn the consequence.
“I believed whatever punishment they had should be educational. What was lost will never come back. I wanted them to grow.”
Kregg agreed. “I think the punishment was fair. I’m not real happy with the way Douglas County carried it out.” Kregg explained the original sentence was for the boys to send a written apology and deliver a personal apology.
The Herzes did not receive a letter and only one personal apology was delivered, from Jason Williams, in February. The other boy is expected to come by this summer.
Kregg believes the apologies should have been carried out closer to the time of the fire.
“It’s a year later and we’re going to have to go through it again,” she said.
Kregg also believes the community service hours should have been served where the harm was done.
“They should be helping us get back to normal,” she said. “I don’t think it was the boys’ fault or the parents. The system just fell apart.”
As for the help and compassion displayed by the community, the Herzes are very grateful.
“The community was wonderful,” Kregg said. “Every day I took my daughter to preschool at Trinity Lutheran, there would be at least two or three bags of things for us.”
“I don’t think you could ask for a better community. We feel more a part of the community, more like we belong here,” she continued.
“We were extremely pleased and thrilled. We feel a tremendous amount of gratitude to the people who helped us,” Howard said. “In general, I thank the community very much for a lot of passion.”
“I don’t know how you say things to the people,” Kregg said. “Obviously, you thank everyone. It makes me want to do whatever is possible to make sure nothing like this happens again.”
The couple did not take any money offered by the relief fund because they wanted the Sutherlands to receive as much as possible.
“We just didn’t feel it was right,” Kregg said.
“Our insurance company was superb,” Howard added.
The Herzes are also very grateful for the people who helped the Sutherlands. They had no renter’s insurance and lost everything.
Although the fire destroyed their house, it did not destroy their spirit.
“I don’t sit down and say, ‘what if?’ What ifs don’t count,” Howard said.
“A lot of things you learn in this are personal. It makes you sit down and say, ‘what’s really possible?’
“If we would have stayed, we probably would be dead. What happened up there that day was very dynamic and very violent. It was an education.”