MOUNT WASHINGTON - Ron Ernspiker couldn’t wait until Christmas to surprise his wife Rita with the freshly restored 1957 Ford he spent three years building from the ground up.
Ernspiker, 66, kept the car out of site in one of the sheds behind his home on Lloyd Lane in Mount Washington.
Only two weeks before Christmas it was almost finished; all that was left was to give the vintage car a new paint job and install brand new seats.
Ernspiker never imagined what would transpire only two days before he was to take the car to be painted.
On Dec. 13 the shed that housed the vintage car caught fire.
Neighbors called 9-1-1 when they saw black smoke billowing high above the Ernspikers’ property.
Mount Washington fire fighters arrived on the scene five minutes after they were dispatched around noon.
By then the shed and all its contents were lost.
Ernspiker was at work when his son called to tell him the news.
“I started having chest pains,” Ernspiker said. “I thought I was having a heart attack.”
The Ernspikers lost much more than their 1957 Ford, which was not covered by insurance.
They lost lawn equipment, 19th century furniture, thousands of dollars worth of windows and cabinets they were going to install in their home, dozens of antique tools that belonged to Ernspiker’s father and countless other items.
Ernspiker said 60 percent of what was lost could never be replaced
“One of the firemen asked me what kind of value I’d put on everything that was in the shed. I couldn’t say,” he said. “You just can’t put a number on a lot of that stuff.”
As a carpenter, Ernspiker said he’s rebuilt fire damaged structures in the past and though he felt sorry for his clients he never really understood what they were going through until he became a victim himself.
“You don’t grasp the value of sentimental things until they’re gone,” he said.
Considering Christmas is only days away, Ernspiker said the loss is particularly hard on him and his family.
“My heart goes out to anyone who’s experienced something like this,” he said. “I pray I never have to go through it again and I pray no one else has to either.”
Ernspiker, who works semi-retired at Bullitt Central High School in addition to being in the construction business, said he and his wife have been comforted by the many friends, family members and co-workers who have reached out to express their condolences and offer their support.
“You don’t know how many friends you have until stuff like this happens,” he said.
While Ernspiker said he didn’t think there was anything anyone could do to save the building and its contents he commended the swift response of the Mount Washington Fire Department.
“We’re so grateful for the fire department. They were just super,” he said. “They sure tried and for that we’re thankful.”
Ernspiker said things could’ve been much worse if it weren’t for the fire fighters who spent hours keeping the flames from spreading to nearby structures.
“I just thank God nobody was hurt,” he said. “It’s rough but we will survive.”
As soon as their insurance company gives them the go-ahead, Ernspiker said he and his wife would rebuild their shed.
“We’ll get the mess out, rebuild and start over,” he said.
As for how the fire started, Ernspiker said an inspector told him they believe mice chewed an electrical wire, which shorted and caught fire.