FIRE

Santa Rosa Beach woman won $1M. The home she bought - uninsured - burned on move-in day.

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Winning the lottery is supposed to be lucky, but not so much for local Kathryn Faver. 

The 58-year-old Santa Rosa Beach woman bought three scratch-off lottery tickets in September. The first two were duds, but the third was a $1 million winner. 

Kathryn Faver, 58, stands outside her new home she has yet to sleep in. She bought the home in Destin with lottery winnings, had no insurance and the house burned on the same day she moved in.

She won the $1 million prize from a 500X THE CASH scratch-off ticket she purchased at Cumberland Farms, located at 7986 Highway 98 East in Destin. Faver chose to receive her winnings as a one-time, lump-sum payment of $820,000. 

Faver took the money and paid $400,000 cash for a house in Destin on Dec. 30 and immediately began to move in that same day − before she secured home owners insurance. After furniture and boxes had been moved in, she left to go pick up her dog from her mom's house, where she got a call from the sheriff’s department that her luck had changed for the worse.

From the ceiling to the floor, the kitchen area of Kathryn Faver's home is a loss.

Her beautiful new home was on fire.

“I didn’t even get to spend the night in it, not even 10 minutes," Faver said.

Lead up to moving day 

“I was looking for a house and it took me forever. I finally found one and closed on it on Friday (Dec. 30),” said Faver, who had been renting in Santa Rosa Beach. 

She paid cash, $400,000. 

“They had multiple offers on it, but because I had cash they accepted my offer,” she said. 

Kathryn Faver, 58, sat in the garage of her home in Destin Friday afternoon going through some of the remains from the fire. The fire occurred on the same day she bought the home and had movers move her stuff in. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Faver said she picked the Destin area to find a home because it was halfway between Fort Walton Beach and Sandestin. She has a new grandson in Fort Walton Beach and her mother is at Sandestin and has macular degeneration. 

“I have to take her to doctor appointments and wherever she needs to go,” Faver said. 

Two to three weeks leading up to the buy, Faver herself had been sick and didn’t take care of getting home insurance. 

“It’s personally my stupidity,” she said. 

She went ahead and called a moving company to move her belongings nonetheless. 

The Destin Fire Department had to break through the front door of Kathryn Faver's home. The fire started in the kitchen in the front of the house.

The company moved her stuff in and then she left to go pick up her dog. 

Faver alleges the movers left boxes on top of the counters in the kitchen and the glass top stove that somehow got turned on. 

Faver says the moving company told her it’s their policy not to put stuff on the counters anywhere and are “not accepting responsibility,” she said. 

The moving company refused to comment on the situation. 

How did the fire start?

According to Destin Fire Battalion Chief Justin Blixton, they got the call on Dec. 30, 2022 at 3:07 p.m. and were on the scene in five minutes. 

“A neighbor had called it in. We got there and forced our way in,” Blixton said. 

Firefighters were able to determine the fire started in the kitchen, and they were able to keep it mostly contained in that area. There was some damage in the front living area as well, he said. The kitchen area is charred and there is smoke damage in other areas. 

In the kitchen, the appliances are a total loss. A microwave above the stove is melted and cabinets are burned through, drywall is down and insulation in the ceiling is exposed.

The Destin Fire Department responded to a fire at Kathryn Faver's home on Dec. 30. Firefighters were able to primarily contain the fire to the kitchen.

“Fortunately, the majority of her belongings were in the back bedroom,” Blixton said. 

Three Destin trucks responded to the fire as well as the Okaloosa Island Fire Department and North Bay Fire Department. The actual cause of the fire is still under investigation, Blixton said. 

Blixton said the fire happened at the right time and the wrong time.

As for the wrong, it happened right after Faver bought the home and was moving in. 

“That’s a tough one … but I’m happy we put it out when we did,” Blixton said. 

"Nobody was hurt and nobody was in the home,” he said. 

Kathryn Faver, 58, looks around at all the damage to the living room area that is just off from the kitchen where the fire started. The fire happened the same day she bought and paid for the home with lottery winnings.

And Faver was lucky that the fire happened before a big storm blew in that Friday afternoon. If it had happened during the storm the neighbor might not have noticed and it could have been a total loss.

As far as Faver's finances are concerned, it might as well be.

“I have basically maybe $300 to my name right now … because I put everything into it,” said Faver, who is a widow. 

“I don’t know which way to go. I’m completely clueless,” she said. 

Without insurance, no where to turn

According to Michael Cheney of Allstate, “unfortunately if you pay cash for a home, you don’t have to have insurance." 

“But once you sign, you’re holding the bag,” Cheney said, noting there is no grace period. 

The cause of the fire on moving day at Kathryn Faver's home in Destin is still under investigation.

Cheney also made note that due to the fire damage, the home would most likely need to be repaired before she could get it insured now. 

“I can’t live in it … it’s got smoke damage," she said.

"All the drywall has got to come out because of the smoke. And there is water damage ... it's a mess," Faver said as she sat in the garage a week later, going through some of the remains.

The estimated cost to get the kitchen fixed and other needed repairs is about $150,000.

The bedroom in Kathryn Faver's home is in the back, but still suffered from smoke damage.

With no job and health issues, Faver is a bit overwhelmed on how to pay for repairs.

"I've just been so sick, but I need to try and see if I can get to the bank to get a line of credit," she said, or even an equity loan. "I just don't know."

When she opted for the $825,000 payout, it ended up at about $500,000 after taxes. She paid bills and donated about $10,000 to a church in Marianna where one of her sons is a youth pastor.

"They were able to deck out that youth room," she said, with couches, TVs and gaming systems for the youth.

A bathroom down the hall and around the corner from the kitchen area where the fire started had smoke damage to the walls as well.

Plus she gave some money to people who work hard in the community.

"I was just trying to bring a little peace and joy at Christmas. Just trying to do something nice," she said.

Unlucky lottery ticket 

Faver, who says she plays the lottery “here and there,” had bought three tickets on that September day. 

“I bought one and went and sat in the car and scratched it,” she said. 

Kathryn Faver, 58, hit it big in the lottery with a $50 scratch-off in the 500X The Cash game.

“Then I went back in and got one more and scratched it. It was a loser. I went back in and said I’ll get one more,” she said. 

Faver told the clerk, “I’m not even going to scratch it, I’m going to scratch the bottom and you can check it. She checked it, and it was a million-dollar ticket,” she said. 

What seemed like a windfall, has been her undoing.

In the meantime, she’s staying where she lived before. 

Will she buy another lottery ticket? 

“I don’t know … Is it the curse of the lottery?” she said.