Foster family witnesses waves of support after house fire


Photo by Kaylee Olmsted

Robert and Patricia Hoffman sit in front of their temporary camper home, yards away from the skeleton of their old home. 

By Kaylee Olmsted

Friends and neighbors are raising money to rebuild the home on Sharptown Road, West Harrison, where Robert and Patricia Hoffman sheltered 51 foster children over the past decades.

The home, appraised by the county for $369,900 in 2023, was completely destroyed by fire April 2. The home was not insured, Hoffman said.

Fire: The fire that engulfed Robert and Patricia’s home could be seen from afar. Photo by Amanda Thompson Hogeback 

At the time, Robert and Patricia were shopping with their daughter, Alizabeth, and dog, Emma. A son, Rob, was building planter boxes in the barn while a fire burned in the fire pit. The family suspects that a spark from the fire caught a pile of cardboard Amazon boxes that sat nearby, Patricia said. 

Children Christian, 6 at the time, and Karalyn, 14, were both at the house but got out on time, but a pet dog perished in the fire.

“When one of the girls called us and said ‘your house is on fire’ my heart just went right to the cement,” Robert said. 

The fire left next to nothing uscathed. Photo by Amanda Thompson Hogeback

They arrived at the house as most of it was already burnt. 

“It was a really strange feeling when you were standing there knowing that all the clothes you had were the clothes you were wearing,” Patricia said. 

Amanda Thompson Hogeback, one of Robert and Patricia’s neighbors, was among the first people to the fire. She said she called the house frantically when she saw the flames. Since then, she said she passes the house almost daily and feels she couldn’t rest until she knows the couple is OK.

The Hoffmans are “pillars within the community,” she said. 

Bob adopted Pat’s two biological children and the couple adopted six children from foster care. They have taken in 51 foster children over the years. While they have had various roles in the community, Robert drives a school bus. The morning after the fire, he said the kids thought he was crazy to be at work driving the bus.

“Well, today is the day the Lord has made, and I’ll rejoice and be glad in it,” Robert said. 

Hogeback said that nothing could stop him from telling each child to have a great day the day after the fire. 

This is what the Hoffman’s home looked like before the fire. Provided photo

The Hoffmans currently live in a camper belonging to their next-door neighbor, Jessica Brennan, that is parked on their property next to the skeleton of their home.

Hogeback started a GoFundMe to fund the rebuilding of their home. It had raised almost $31,000 by June 8.

A “photo fundraising” event will be held at the Brookville Town Park from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. June 24, according to Facebook. Participating photographers will take four photos for $20, emailing them to a preferred address. 

Hogeback said the goal is to help the Hoffmans enjoy life debt free. She said they shouldn’t have to deal with something like losing their home at their stage of life. 

“They make it easy to help because of who they are,” she said.