The amount of support they've received from total strangers is enough to convince Bill Barber and Lois Ayers that they've found their home.
For Bill Barber and Lois Ayers, paradise was a home in Ormond-By-The-Sea with enough room for their two dogs, and a five minute walk to the beach.
The two months they spent in their home were nothing short of perfect. Finally feeling settled in with just a few final touches remaining, the couple was looking forward to spending the rest of their lives in their dream home.
But what happens when your dream home burns to the ground?
'The street looked like a war zone'
A former miltary reporter, Barber has witnessed scenes of destruction — but he never imagined he'd see one at his beachside paradise.
Around 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, Barber and Ayers left for dinner at Lagerheads Bar & Grill. While they were eating, they noticed a big cloud of smoke coming from down the road.
"We never dreamed it would be our house," Barber said. "Our street looked like a war zone."
Debris covered the floor, the roof melted through the living room, and the house that almost felt like home was withered to ashes.
Though officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, Barber said he feels pretty certain it started on the porch. Earlier that day, they had bought an electric cooler from a yardsale and plugged it in next to the grill. He believes it caught fire and spread.
In addition to losing their home and the majority of their belongings, the couple also lost their Shih Tzu, Marco. He celebrated his fourth birthday just a week before.
"Our neighbors broke through our front door, and Willie came running out," Barber said of their other dog, a dachshund-corgi mix. "They tried, but the smoke was too dense for anyone to get in."
Some sentimental things survived the fire, including their wedding band, Ayers' father's miltary funeral flag and Barber's baseball card collection that he shares with his son.
Though the tragdey they experienced will forever be etched in their minds, the couple says the real story began after they put out the flames.
Finding paradise in the aftermath
When Bill Barber told his friend from back home about the fire, she insincerely replied, "Maybe now you'll quit posting about how you're living in paradise."
Little did she know, paradise for Barber and Ayers was just starting to reveal itself.
"We've found more paradise in these past three days than we did in the past two months," Ayers said. "We've been overwhelmed with clothes, food, support, anything we need. All from people we don't know."
"We've had more names and numbers given to us than we know what to do with," Barber agreed. "We barely know anyone, and we've had this outpouring from strangers. Strangers that are now our friends. We've found our paradise. You couldn't pry us off that little plot of land."
The couple plans to tear down what's left of their old home, and build a new one. Even despite the hardships they've endured these past few days, they don't plan on leaving any time soon.
As Ayers puts it: "I didn't drive 12,000 miles towing that little red truck to turn tail and run."
Realty Pros Assured agent Wayne Carter started a GoFundMe page to raise $5,000 for the couple and help them rebuild their lives. Visit gofundme.com/2qx6dpo to donate.