From the driveway, the house looks the same as it did before the fire.
White painted steps lead up to the pink entryway of the home of Rehoboth Beach singer/songwriter Viki Dee. She spent two years turning the manufactured home in Aspen Meadows into her dream house.
And yet right away there’s the smell, like a charcoal grill after a cookout, still lingering five days after the fire. Walking through the gate to the backyard reveals the burned out shell of a bedroom where Dee used to sleep. All that's left of her bed are the springs, sticking up out of the blackened floor. The back half of the house was hollowed out by the fire.
“I put a lot of money into the house,” Dee said. “It was really painful to watch that happen.”
After performing at Delaware Distilling Company Oct. 20, Dee came home to find her house smothered in smoke. The fire caused $70,000 in damage, and it took all of Dee’s most cherished possessions: a dog, a cat and a cockatoo all perished.
“It’s hard,” she said. “I’m left with nothing but the clothes that were on my back. I don’t have anything. I’m really starting over. I’m blessed to be alive. But the animals, that’s what breaks my heart.”
Dee said when she came home from her performance, her bedroom was still in flames. She tried to enter the front door. When she did, Dee said, the backdraft blew her off the porch. She dialed 911, and frantically called for her dog, Philip.
“The smoke was just, huge. I couldn’t even see,” Dee said.
Investigators initial assessment, she said, is that it was an electrical fire caused by wiring.
Her house was insured, but Dee is most emotional about the things she can’t get back.
Phillip was 13 years old, and her cockatoo had just turned 24.
“They were my family. He was my boy,” Dee said of Phillip. “I tell everybody I miss my boy every day. I can’t get that back. I don’t care about the house, as much as I care about them.”
It was only when she began to go through the house to see what was salvagable that what happened began to sink in. Dee said watching her home go up was a helpless feeling.
“I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience,” she said. “Every thing was surreal. It’s still surreal. It’s unimaginable. The word shock isn’t even a big enough word. I couldn’t believe the effect of what a fire can really do.”
In addition to her animals, Dee also lost all of her work– songs and lyrics – as well as family keepsakes.
“It’s so much more than losing a home; it’s what it represented,” Dee said. “I had my father’s things in there, and he’s deceased, so I have nothing of his anymore. People think the memory is compensation, and it’s really not. You want to hold something tangible.”
Dee is staying with friends as investigators continue to determine the cause of the fire. She said she has been overwhelmed by the support of the community, who have helped with donations and support.
“I think it’s what’s kept me going,” Dee said, choking back tears. “It says something about this community when people are in need – they’re right there to help in any way they can. I’m blessed beyond belief. They’re my angels.”
She said her mother and her sister are flying in from Los Angeles to provide support. Dee has decided to cancel her performances for the immediate future.
“I don’t have it in me,” Dee said. “It takes a lot. I can’t stand very long. I can’t concentrate very much. I’m a little out of sorts. I’m just going to take a break for a little while to get my head together and get some strength back. Then I’ll go back up.”
She said she doesn’t plan to be away from the stage for too long, but for now, she doesn’t want the stress of her situation to affect her performance.
“It won’t be long because I know I’ll miss it,” she said.
Dee’s friends will host a Saturday, Nov. 16 fundraiser.
The fundraiser will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach. Organizer Mary Ann Slinkman said Rusty Rudder owner Alex Pires has donated not only the Rudder, but the food for a spaghetti dinner, desserts and drinks from the cash bar.
The fundraiser requires $25 tickets, which can be purchased at Maggio Shields Realty on Route 1 and at Sign A Rama on Rehoboth Avenue Extended.
One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to Dee, Slinkman said, and the night will feature a roster of local entertainers.
Pires said, “She's a wonderful person, a talented singer/musician. Viki's had a bad break but needs to know the community is going to help her get back on her feet.”
Dee is aware of the benefit and was thankful to Pires for donating the space.
“I think I’m going to be a wreck,” she joked.
Despite all she’s been through, Dee said she is trying to stay positive.
“It’s a whole new lesson. I’ve never experienced this lesson. It’s a new life. It’s a brand new life. I guess the positive aspect of it is I’ve been given a new beginning. It’s going to be different,” she said.