Pass the Cash: Michael Howitz

Michael Howitz and his dog, Jake
Michael Howitz and his dog, Jake

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - It could take years for people who've been through a fire and lost everything to get their lives back on track.

WMBF News is passing the cash to help one family in the Pee Dee.

Friends have rallied around them, helping the family get back on their feet after a fire destroyed everything. But it'll be a long road to get their lives back to normal.

Roger Jeffords lives in a house right behind where Michael Howitz used to live, and remembers the morning of the fire.

"I think it happened around three in the morning. The smoke detectors were going off," Jeffords recalls.

But he says he still had no idea his friend's house was burning down that night in January.

"By the time people realized what was going on, about all he could do was get out and try to save himself," adds Jeffords.

Luckily...Michael Howitz woke up in time.

"If it wasn't for the smoke detectors, he may not have made it out," Jeffords explained.

The house and everything inside was a total loss.

Making the tragedy even more devastating, "They had no insurance on it," Jeffords says.

A sudden fire would be heartbreaking for anyone, but especially for a man who's been looking for work for two and a half years.

Jeffords days, "It's gotta be tough when you don't have a job, to have to start all over again with nothing."

Luckily for Michael, he has good friends like Roger looking out for him.

"Hey Michael! WMBF… what they do is help people who've been in hard times, times of need and they helped you out with $300," exclaims Jeffords as he passes the cash to Howitz and his wife.

"I don't know what to say, except God bless you, and thank you," replies an emotional Howitz.

Michael said it's still hard to talk about the night of the fire. He remembers the smoke detectors waking him up to see a small fire in his kitchen.

"Thought I should let some smoke out so I opened the back door," Howitz recalls.

He didn't realize the roof was already on fire.

"As soon as I did, black smoke came in and I couldn't breathe. All I could do was duck and run," he added.

Leaving behind everything he owned and his 2-year-old dog Jake, who was hiding, scared.

"There were flames out the back door, front door, both sides of the house and the roof in 30 minutes," says Howitz.

Firefighters worked to put out the fire for hours. The Red Cross was also on the scene.

Howitz recalls how much the non-profit did for his family. "You've always heard about the Red Cross and how much they help people, but you don't really know it until you actually see it."

Michael's friends were the next to show up.

"I don't have anything... Everything here is donated. Furniture, plates... Everything down to the coffee maker and salt and pepper shakers," Howitz gestures.

As Michael and his wife work to rebuild their life together, he won't forget those who were there for him after the devastating fire that took his home and his dog.

"When you think you've seen everything... You haven't seen anything until you've been thru a fire and see about your friends and the Red Cross. Thank God for that," Howitz proclaims.

Michael and his wife were renting the home from a couple who decided not to rebuild it.

He recently found another place to stay, and says he thinks he has some promising job prospects coming up.

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