On March 30, a beaming young Middle Georgia couple wed in front of about 200 people. But many of their guests had no idea that hours earlier they lost nearly everything they owned in a fire.
Caleb Fuller was sound asleep in his Monroe County home when some of his groomsmen woke him up about 2 a.m.
The groomsmen were frantic. They were in the yard when they heard a popping noise and then realized the house, made of wood logs, was on fire.
Fuller barely made it out alive, as the house quickly went up in flames.
His bride, Catherine Kehl, was staying with her matron of honor, but everything she owned was in the house. She quickly rushed over and the couple watched the home, the place where they planned to make their life together, burn to the ground.
Canceling the wedding was never a consideration for the couple, who are from Macon and live just over the county line.
“There was nothing else to do but keep going,” Caleb said Wednesday while standing in front of where his home once stood, Catherine by his side. The blaze reduced the structure to a pile of scorched wood and stone pilings.
The wedding was at 5 p.m., so the couple spent the next few hours scrambling to get ready with help from family and friends. Caleb had to get another tuxedo. Catherine’s dress was not in the house.
The fire wasn’t mentioned at the wedding, and the couple said most people outside of the wedding party didn’t know about it.
Melanie Emory, a close friend, said no one at the wedding would have be able to tell from the couple that they had just lost everything.
“It was probably the sweetest wedding I’ve ever been to,” she said. “It was kind of like you just push your worries aside and live in the moment. They lived in the moment.”
They were set to go on a honeymoon cruise the Monday after the wedding, but had no clothes. Some friends brought them three suitcases packed with new clothes on Sunday. Their passports and tickets were with Catherine, safe from the fire.
Emory also started a Go Fund Me account, which by Wednesday had raised $11,380.
“It’s crazy how quickly your community can be that supportive,” Catherine said. “People you don’t even know have contributed. It’s amazing how great people area. We have really, really, really good friends.”
Caleb and Catherine were able to forget about what happened to their home for a few days and enjoy their honeymoon. They said it was a good escape before having to figure out how to rebuild their lives.
“We just kind of left this here,” Catherine said.
The hardest thing for Caleb to talk about from the tragedy is the loss of his beloved yellow Labrador, Briley.
Caleb let Briley out of his kennel as he fled the house, but the smoke was so thick and it was hard to see. Caleb lost sight of his dog.
Briley hasn’t been found, and Caleb and Catherine are holding out hope that he escaped and ran way. They have been putting out fliers in attempt to find him if he’s still alive. Three cats are also missing.
The couple believes an electrical problem caused the fire, and Caleb said it’s possible his life was spared because it was his wedding day. Had he not been getting married, he wouldn’t have had anyone to wake him up.
“It could have been much worse,” he said.
The home was insured, but they said the insurance won’t nearly cover all of their losses. They do plan on rebuilding on the same lot, in part because of all the help they got from neighbors after the fire.