Rising from the ashes? Recovery program scrambles after fire burns historic Fresno home

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The road to recovery is taking a detour for the women tackling addiction problems and living at a historic Fresno home that burned Sunday.

The Kutner Home stood for 120 years on L St. in downtown Fresno and it could stand again, but for the time being, its recent residents need help.

When flames burned the historic Kutner Home Sunday, the fire took away the safe space for 12 women who lived there as part of the Light-House Recovery program.

"It means everything," said the program director, Vikki Luna. "They not only lost where they were living, they lost their personal belongings and to them, that's everything."

Bunk beds are exposed on the second floor, just beneath the sunken roof where a repair crew likely sparked the fire.

RELATED: Historic downtown Fresno house destroyed in large fire

The house is boarded up.

The residents moved to temporary housing, got some clothes from the program's thrift store, and moved their classrooms to Cornerstone Church conference center.

All but one of the women is sticking to their recovery programs.

But the house itself may never recover.

Built in 1901 on what was the edge of Fresno, the 4600-square-foot home was once home to Alfred Kutner, then William Dickey, then J.C. Forkner, and it's on the Local Register of Historic Resources.

Architect Paul Halajian, a member of the Fresno Historic Preservation Commission, says it could possibly be rebuilt, but it'll be hard to restore the history.

"The thing that really defines us as a community, as a town, defines our culture, I think is architecture, and the fact that we've lost another key piece of our history is a really, really devastating a blow to the fabric of our community," Halajian said.

Light-House director Vikki Luna is hoping insurance will help so that - like the lives of the women who graduate from the program - the house will rise from the ashes.

"If we can look past that pain, we can see there will be good on the other end of this," Luna said. "There really will be."

For now, Luna is looking for a 4-bedroom home -- or two 2-bedroom homes - in downtown or the Tower District area as a temporary home.

They're also hoping people can donate grocery store gift cards or cash.

You can go to the program's website to make a donation.
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