Good daycare is hard to find, but it's almost impossible in Vernon.
Parents showing up for the first day of school Monday, including the state's new voluntary pre-k program, were shocked to find the Vernon daycare closed. The owners had a good reason.
John Hawkins and his staff worked until two o'clock Monday morning preparing for their first day of pre-k, but a 3:30 knock on his front door revealed other plans.
John Hawkins says, "I got up and went to the door. It was one of my neighbors telling us that our daycare was on fire."
Hawkins and his family live just a mile up the road from the daycare. They could only watch it go up in flames.
Jessica Hawkins, a daycare employee, said, "Daddy said, ‘Jessica, look out there,’ ‘cause it was just so bright. I said, ‘daddy, that can't be it. We left like 15 minutes ago.’ He said if that's it, it's gone. We didn't even put the truck in park or anything. We just jump out, took off running up here and just watched it burn."
The school was prepared to welcome 45 children Monday morning for daycare and pre-k. Now some parents like Diana Shipley have find alternatives until Kiddie Kingdom rebuilds.
"I've got a few friends and some family that can help out for right now and if it's going be a while I'll look into a temporary daycare."
The fire marshal's investigation revealed that the fire was caused by a stopped up dryer vent that was home to a squirrel's nest.
Hawkins is trying to keep a good attitude about the situation.
"The only thing I can think of is that old Ray Stephens song. The squirrel went berserk in the First Baptist Church."
The owners of Kiddy Kingdom say they plan to rebuild. In the meantime they're searching for a temporary space to hold the daycare.
Everything was destroyed in the fire, including children's toys and books.
If anyone would like to make a donation to Kiddie Kingdom, you can contact them at 850-535-2520.