HOLT — Neighbors and friends have started a donation drive for a father of two who remains in a Kansas City hospital requiring surgery after suffering serious burns in a house fire on Father’s Day that left the man homeless.
Corey Johnson, a divorced father of two boys ages 5 and 2, was home alone when the blaze broke out at his house in rural Holt near Kearney.
“He was barefoot and so his feet and legs got burned pretty bad,” neighbor Marva Keeth said Tuesday, June 20. “Everything was destroyed. The roof of the house fell into the basement and burned all the way through. It was still smoldering today.”
Johnson is undergoing surgery at Research Medical Center, Keeth said.
“It’s just terrible because there’s nothing left. He has no shoes, socks, underwear, pants, nothing. It’s all gone. He has nothing for the boys. They have stuff at their mother’s house, but everything at their dad’s is gone — all of their toys and everything,” she said.
Kearney Fire & Rescue Protection District Chief Kevin Pratt said crews were called to the fire around 5 p.m. Sunday, June 18, at the house on the corner of Nation Road and Northeast 174th Street.
“We got the call at 4:53 p.m. Sunday. We cleared it around 8:45,” he said of the large single-family home. “We had an ambulance come out from Holt and also had (crews from) Smithville and Liberty.”
Keeth said her family called the fire district again late Tuesday afternoon because the structure reignited.
While he doesn’t believe arson was at play, Pratt said the fire is under investigation as the cause and point of origin have yet to be determined. Television news reports stating a gas can was brought into the home are being looked into, but nothing concrete is known at this point, he said.
Keeth said she visited Johnson at the hospital Tuesday and learned he will need multiple skin grafts and surgeries, but is expected to recover.
“He was just worried about everything,” she said, adding that Johnson has a girlfriend whose daughter also had belongings in the house.
“Red Cross went up there and gave him a check for $500, but he gave that to her so she could replace her daughter’s things that were in there,” Keeth said, adding that the tragedy couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more hard-working man.
“He did so much work to that house. When he bought it, it was a pit and he made it shine. Every time you would see him, he’d be out there working on something,” she said. “It’s a terrible situation.”
To help Johnson and his family get back on their feet when he returns home, Keeth and another friend started a donation drive. They are seeking donations of children’s toys, clothes, gift cards and other items.
“We’ve got a long list going,” Keeth said, adding that she is researching how to start a GoFundMe account.