October 25, 2021

After fire, only memories remain

Donors help McGraw family who lost 38-year home in July 19 blaze

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Thirty-eight years of memories and car full of wedding decorations went up in flames when this house at 5 Highland Ave. in McGraw burned recently. A GoFundMe campaign is helping the family recover.

As smoke continued to rise from the garage, Kevin Cute opened the door with an urgency to get his wife’s Jeep, which had his daughter’s wedding decorations. He met flames.

“Half the Jeep had melted at that point,” said son Kyle Cute.

Within four minutes, the fire engulfed the garage, taking the Jeep, wedding decorations and family heirlooms.

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The Cutes were one of three families removed from their home on July 19 on Highland Avenue in McGraw after a fire in a garage at 5 Highland Ave. spread to a single-family house at the same address and an apartment house at 7 Highland Ave.

A GoFundMe drive has raised more than $5,000 to help the family. But that doesn’t make the loss easier. The family learned this week from their insurance agency that the house they had lived in for 38 years and the garage were a total loss.

McGraw Fire Chief Jeff Sherwood said the cause of the fire was electrical, but did not provide details.

“It’s hard,” said Kyle Cute, speaking on behalf of the family. “It’s incredibly sad.”

The Cutes bought their house 38 years ago through a village of McGraw home improvement program.

Kyle Cute said when his mother, Jacqueline, saw the two-story home with a wrap-around porch she fell in love.

In the early hours of July 19, she watched as flames took over the garage and then her home.

Jacqueline Cute woke around 1:30 a.m. to the smell of smoke. As she searched the house for the cause, the smell intensified and she noticed the motion sensor light to the garage was flickering.

“She thought maybe there were people around the house or that there was a bonfire, kids running around,” Kyle Cute said.

She went to the dining room window and saw smoke coming out the garage. She ran to get her husband and call 911.

From there, Kevin Cute ran to alert his neighbors and tried to get the Jeep, which was storing the decorations for his daughter Ashley’s wedding. When he couldn’t reach it, he and his wife grabbed the suitcases they had packed for the wedding and their three pets, got in their other vehicle and drove down the street.

Hours later, the garage and everything in it was gone and both houses were uninhabitable. However, the Cutes worried more about making their daughter’s wedding day special.

Now, people are helping the family until their insurance is figured out. Ashley Cute Kenyon started a GoFundMe for her parents with the goal of raising $5,000. By Wednesday afternoon, 105 donors had given $5,400.

But the family is still in disbelief, Kyle Cute said. “We’re just trying to be there for each other day by day.”

The house was where the Cutes raised their three children, had family gatherings and welcomed anyone inside.

“It’s hard to synthesize one memory, there’s so much,” Kyle Cute said. “There’s so much life and growth that takes place in a house.”

The garage was Kevin Cute’s safe place. “It was almost like my dad’s second home in a way,” Kyle Cute said. “He did wood-working in there.”

“Their door was always open for anyone at any time,” he said. “That’s a challenging dynamic trying to adjust to not having a home or a door that was open for 38 years.”