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Alberton family relies on community, faith following house fire

Alberton fire family
Alberton fire
Alberton fire
Alberton fire
Posted at 8:38 AM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 10:38:40-05

MISSOULA — It was 10:30 pm on Dec. 4, 2021, when the Johnson-Copenhaver family lost everything in a house fire.

Within a matter of just 10 hours, they went from homeowners to homeless.

“Yeah, there wasn’t a whole lot of saving anything," said Tami Copenhaver, who lost her home in the fire. "They say we barely got out…it was literally that.”

Alberton fire family
The Johnson-Copenhaver family lost everything in a house fire on Dec. 4, 2021.

The family of six lost everything; the family memoirs from those who had passed on, clothes, glasses, keys and their loved animals.

“You don't realize how much you take for granted," Copenhaver told MTN News. "From simple cleaning supplies to just going and being able to grab a glass of milk out of the fridge. When you lose everything, you lose everything.”

Their Alberton house was built in the 1940s and when they bought the home, they had removed a broken stovetop. Four years later, that stove would be the reason the house was engulfed in flames within five minutes that Saturday night.

Alberton fire

“So sparks went up the chimney, came out of the hole, that we did not know was in the side of the chimney, because they had built a wall across," said Cliff Johnson.

“We didn’t even know it was there," said Copenhaver.

And when it rains, it pours. The family has been faced with car accidents, mechanical problems, unforeseen cleanup payments, rental scams, and other incidents in the days following the fire — all with little to no help from insurance.

Alberton fire

“And they took out the insurance on the house and they took out enough insurance on the house to cover the mortgage for the house," said Johnson. "It does not cover any personal belongings replacing anything tearing it down, cleaning it up, temporary housing — nothing."

As the flames went up the Johnson-Copenhaver family relied on their faith and community.

“He [God] has a plan," said Johnson. "He's [God] guiding us and my wife realized the day that we got the rental, it had been 40 days and 40 nights since our house had burned, just like Noah in the boat. There was our rainbow.”

Alberton fire

The Johnson-Copenhaver family is still in need of some outdoor gear like workout clothes, backpacking and snowboarding gear.

They are also currently seeking a lawyer for legal advice and insurance help.

There is also a Go Fund Me page to help with rent payments and house clean-up.