Michelle Davis and her family have lived in their house on Hunter Drive in Madison for 23 years and, with the help of a friend who is a carpenter, they focused on a different remodeling project each year.
Bathrooms and the kitchen were updated, hardwood floors were put down and new windows were installed. This year they realized they finally had everything the way they wanted it.
On Tuesday evening, Davis said Wednesday.
"We'll rebuild, we'll do it over, and everybody got out safe," she said.
Fire consumed part of the house, smoke and water damaged other parts, and sections of walls and ceilings had to be ripped out so firefighters could access the fire.
Davis said she, her husband Frank, four children and four dogs are staying with her parents in Florham Park. The insurance company next week will work out a place for them to live until the home can be rebuilt and they are able to move back, possibly in about six months.
Davis and her two daughters and four dogs, who were home at the time, got out of the house when they realized it was on fire and called 9-1-1.
Frank Davis works for Madison's Department of Public Works, and has a landscaping business. He was out plowing snow Tuesday when he got a call about the fire. He came home to find the home illuminated by emergency lights and smoke coming from the roof, Michelle Davis said.
After the fire was knocked down, the fire department let them inside and held flashlights so they could retrieve items with sentimental value that weren't destroyed, such as baby pictures and a christening gown.
"The firemen, they were fantastic, all lined up, passing photo albums, cartons of pictures," she said. "You can't replace any of that stuff."
With two other fires in Madison in the previous month, one on Crestwood Drive and one on Park Avenue, fire safety was on their mind the day before the fire. Davis said the smoke detectors in the house worked, but they figured it would be good to install new ones and she purchased smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on Monday. They had not yet installed them.
The fire means this year's family Christmas gathering will be held in someone else's home, but Michelle Davis said she hopes to have family over for Christmas in their rebuilt home next year. The fire also has led friends and family to reach out to offer support, Davis said.
"We have a lot of great friends and family and they were with us right away and they've been with us every step of the way," she said.