Fireproof: Molly and Tyler Thrasher

A young Tulsa couple’s love and creativity are tested after a devastating house fire.



Molly and Tyler Thrasher in their rebuilt home.

Molly and Tyler Thrasher were headed home from a fun evening with friends when they saw the firetrucks in their neighborhood near the University of Tulsa campus. They hoped their friends several doors down were all right.

“I checked their house as we drove by and said, ‘Whew, they’re good,’” recalls Molly of that fateful night in December 2016. “I didn’t even think it could be ours.”

But Tyler had a gut feeling.

“We turned the corner, and I just felt it,” he says. “It was weird — numbing at first. I didn’t know how to process it all.”

The Thrashers arrived home to see that an electrical fire had already devastated their 1934 house.

The young couple — he an artist, she a photographer — had just bought the home that May and married two months after that. A commissioned painting from their honeymoon had only arrived the previous week — and it, like almost everything they owned, was now gone.

Home, in ruins

The front of the Thrashers’ house was relatively intact, but the inside was destroyed from smoke damage. The back half was burned to the frame.

Very little was salvageable from the fire. If it hadn’t melted or turned to ash, it was covered in carcinogenic soot, which fire inspectors and restoration professionals warned them to avoid. A few sentimental items, like his sketchbook and her journals, were saved but had to be stored hereafter in plastic bags and not handled much ever again.

Molly Thrasher, a professional photographer, took the opportunity to photograph her burned-out home as a way to process the event. // Molly Thrasher

Gone were some paintings Tyler had been working on for weeks; a video he had just completed; half of a collection of rare succulents in the greenhouse out back. Travel photos and personal pictures were lost, as were the couple’s computer hard drives — including one wedding project Molly was finishing for a customer, and an art book Tyler had been toiling over for two years.

“(The insurance company) made us do an inventory list of everything we lost,” Molly explains. “Making that list was what made it all so real for us. It took a few months to make: an 80-something-page spreadsheet, every item, all the contents of our house.”

Tragedy through an artist's lens

Partly crediting a dark sense of humor, the couple laughed — and coped.

“No, it wasn’t good; we were just glad we were OK,” Molly says. “Had we lost a person …”

“It would’ve been infinitely worse,” Tyler chimes in.

They also might have benefited from looking at the situation as artists. For Molly, it was a chance to photograph the house she had so little time to call home.

“Shooting has always been cathartic,” she says. “I’ve done a lot of first things with a camera in front of my face. My first airplane ride was actually to shoot it. It wasn’t a commercial flight, so it was scary doing that. I had never been off the ground.”

She had never been through a house fire either, so this was a first she couldn’t pass up.

“That night, once they let us walk through the house, it was morbid, and we were shocked and sad from all the normal things you’d expect,” Molly says. “But it also was fascinating.”

“I was just documenting, mostly because it was so surreal,” she says. “I guess I didn’t want to forget. Also, the house felt so fresh before. This was our first house. So I don’t know if I would even say it was art.”

“The light was super-creepy,” she adds, describing how the soot-covered windows somberly filtered the charred space.

Tyler saw the possibility of a photo-shoot backdrop. “My everyday human side wants to feel this, but the artist in me saw inspiration,” he says. “It was a weird dichotomy. I should feel really awful, but all of a sudden there is so much art to be made from this.

“Not many people get to shoot in a burned-out building. I have a burned-out house, and I have nothing left but this house, so what can I do with this huge burnt pile of rubble? I’ll shoot with it. Use what I have.”

And “resurrect what you can” might be another part of that philosophy, as he wasted no time in getting a new version of that lost art book up and going.

“We had to get back on our feet,” Tyler says. “I’m not one to sulk; I want to keep moving. So the next day, when we were going through all the stuff we lost, I was thinking, ‘Yeah, we lost all our work, but let’s just make more work. That’s easy.’”

Molly Thrasher, a professional photographer, took the opportunity to photograph her burned-out home as a way to process the event. // Molly Thrasher

Tyler's work takes on new meaning

Tyler’s book included pieces he’d created using chemical reactions — specifically, growing crystals on skulls and dead insects. As the project related to the chemistry and science behind his art, Tyler had named his book “The Wisdom of the Furnace,” a nod to alchemists of antiquity who made chemical reactions in furnaces.

“After the fire, it dawned on me that the name took on a completely new meaning,” says Tyler, who eventually reshot what he could — and more — and has since finished the book again. In November, he launched a Kickstarter campaign for the book, which he will self-publish this spring.

Tyler says his attitude throughout the ordeal was, “I’m going to take everything out of this fire.

“If it’s going to take everything I have, I’m going to use it,” he says. “I’m going to take as much inspiration and energy and creativity as I can and make this thing fuel more projects. There will be something I’m going to pull out of this besides loss.”

‘A human safety net’

Minutes after the Thrashers arrived home after the fire, family and friends arrived to help.

Molly’s parents came, and her mom organized the couple’s siblings to find them basic necessities for the next few days. For the foreseeable future, they would move into her parents’ house.

“It was a shock for a long time,” Molly says. “But we had a human safety net of family and friends.”

Some of those friends started a GoFundMe page for the couple. Within 24 hours, the $15,000 goal was met and exceeded with about 400 people donating. Support came locally, as well as from across the country. Tyler alerted his social media network of the devastating event that meant many orders had been lost.

“The support we got so fast really helped,” she says. “We just had so many people offering us places to stay. So many people brought us clothes. People we’ve never met were sending us artwork because they found out we had lost all of ours.”

“We got more than 120 pieces of artwork in the mail,” Tyler says. “It’s weird to walk around the world, go into coffee shops and think there are hundreds of people who just showed up for us like that.”

Rebuilding and rising from the ashes

The Thrashers rebuilt on the same spot. An appraisal of the property allowed insurance to pay them the cost to rebuild. While they didn’t want anything more grand than what they’d had, the couple was able to build a safer home, with some interior upgrades, like tile to replace linoleum floors and granite in place of laminate countertops.

Without hesitation, the couple decided to rebuild and today have a modern and safe dwelling.

“I’m stubborn,” Tyler says. “We were going to stay in this house, rebuild and make it safe.”

“I didn’t even think of moving,” Molly adds. “It wasn’t even presented as an option. It felt perfect for us.”

In early 2017, Sparks Construction took on the job of salvaging what they could of the original home’s exterior, sandblasting away the soot on the stonework. It was a gut job inside, though, with parts of the frame having to be redone. The entire process took almost six months. They moved back into their home in May 2017.

“We wanted the house to be modern in a safe way,” Molly says. “But we wanted to keep some of the character of the house from the ’30s.”

They not only kept some of the original built-ins in the kitchen, like old phone nooks, but asked the contractors to add more. The wood floors, mostly original to the home, were able to be sanded and re-stained. The fireplace bricks were repainted and the mantel was beautifully recreated with minimal flourishes. Arches were added to open doorways, and Tyler requested a little pass-through between the dining room and living room.

The Thrashers met when Tyler was attending Booker T. Washington High School and Molly was homeschooled. They dated through college, became engaged in May 2015 and married in July 2016, five months before they lost their first home to a fire.

Life, renewed

And along the back wall where the fire started, they hung artwork so generously donated by friends and strangers.

“It’s hard to be pessimistic,” Tyler says of the outreach they received. “It’s just downright disrespectful to retain your pessimism after 400 people whom you have never met have your back. I don’t think I can begin to tell how grateful I am. … It made us better people.”

At one point, he reaches over and protectively touches Molly’s stomach.

“It’s a boy,” she says, beaming. He’ll arrive in May — the same month they became engaged, the month they bought their first house, the month they brought that house to life again.

“We’re very excited,” Tyler says, smiling. 

Scroll down for more pictures of the Thrashers' rebuilt home.

Molly and Tyler Thrasher lost their first home in Tulsa, Oklahoma to a devastating fire. Without hesitation, the couple decided to rebuild and today have a modern and safe dwelling.

Molly and Tyler Thrasher lost their first home in Tulsa, Oklahoma to a devastating fire. Without hesitation, the couple decided to rebuild and today have a modern and safe dwelling.

Molly and Tyler Thrasher lost their first home in Tulsa, Oklahoma to a devastating fire. Without hesitation, the couple decided to rebuild and today have a modern and safe dwelling.

Molly and Tyler Thrasher lost their first home in Tulsa, Oklahoma to a devastating fire. Without hesitation, the couple decided to rebuild and today have a modern and safe dwelling.

 

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September 2018

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Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
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Cost: Free

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Cost: free

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Cost: free

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Contact Name: Katie
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Cost: free

Where:
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Cost: free and open to the public

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Cost: Free

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Cost: 1/2 priced Four-Course Classic

Where:
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Telephone: 918-299-8000
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More information

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Cost: free

Where:
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20 South Lewis Avenue
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Telephone: (918) 565-9404
Contact Name: Katie
Website »

More information

Orth Contemporary is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new Silver Deposit paintings by Jimi Gleason on view at the gallery from September 7ththrough October 19th.    ...

Cost: free

Where:
Orth Contemporary
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Cost: free and open to the public

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Cost: Free

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Telephone: 191-889-56302

More information

Orth Contemporary is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new Silver Deposit paintings by Jimi Gleason on view at the gallery from September 7ththrough October 19th.    ...

Cost: free

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View map »


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More information

Orth Contemporary is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new Silver Deposit paintings by Jimi Gleason on view at the gallery from September 7ththrough October 19th.    ...

Cost: free

Where:
Orth Contemporary
20 South Lewis Avenue
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View map »


Telephone: (918) 565-9404
Contact Name: Katie
Website »

More information

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Cost: free and open to the public

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34477 S 502 Rd.
Park Hill, OK  74451
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Sponsor: YogaQuest
Telephone: (918) 622-5454
Contact Name: Dee Anne Day
Website »

More information

Teachers and administrators can ring in the school year with a sweet deal.   Every Sunday thru Thursday in September, a school ID will get teachers and administrators a half-priced Four...

Cost: 1/2 priced Four-Course Classic

Where:
The Melting Pot of Tulsa
300 Riverwalk Terrace #190
Jenks, OK  74037
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Telephone: 918-299-8000
Website »

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Orth Contemporary is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new Silver Deposit paintings by Jimi Gleason on view at the gallery from September 7ththrough October 19th.    ...

Cost: free

Where:
Orth Contemporary
20 South Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Telephone: (918) 565-9404
Contact Name: Katie
Website »

More information

Orth Contemporary is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new Silver Deposit paintings by Jimi Gleason on view at the gallery from September 7ththrough October 19th.    ...

Cost: free

Where:
Orth Contemporary
20 South Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74104
View map »


Telephone: (918) 565-9404
Contact Name: Katie
Website »

More information

Women Artists of the West (WAOW) presents the 48th Annual Juried Exhibition, "Tallgrass Rendezvous", for the first time in OK!  WAOW is the oldest juried women artists organization...

Cost: Free Reception

Where:
Price Tower Art Center
510 S. Dewey Ave
Bartlesville, OK  74003
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Sponsor: Women Artists of the West
Telephone: 918-494-5994
Contact Name: Helen F. Howerton, Publicity Chair
Website »

More information

Join the Tulsa chapter of the American Cancer Society as “Hope Takes Flight” at the 2018 Cattle Baron’s Ball. This year’s event promises to soar with an aviation themed...

Cost: $200/ticket

Where:
Christiansen Aviation, Jones Riverside Airport
8605 S Elwood Ave
Tulsa, OK  74132
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Sponsor: American Cancer Society Tulsa chapter
Contact Name: Erin Cole
Website »

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Cost: Walk: $10; Run: $20

Where:
OneOK Field
201 N Elgin Ave.
Tulsa, OK, OK  74120
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Sponsor: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Telephone: 405-541-9252
Contact Name: Ricky Cabello
Website »

More information

The Green Country Watercolor Society welcomes all to its opening reception 6-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, featuring beautiful works from local artists. The Green Country Watercolor Society was...

Cost: free and open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
Tulsa, OK  74119
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Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Barton
Website »

More information

Tulsa's River Parks Authority is pleased to announce the return of Monarchs on the Mountain, a festival celebrating the vital role Eastern Oklahoma plays in the Monarch Butterfly migration will...

Cost: Free

Where:
Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area
6850 S. Elwood Ave
Tulsa, OK  74132
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Sponsor: Tulsa Riverparks Authority
Telephone: 918-596-2008
Contact Name: Ryan Howell

More information

Artist T. C. Cannon was both a Vietnam War veteran and a member of the Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society. At this special event, join us in honoring both T.C. Cannon and the many veterans and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Gilcrease Museum
1400 N Gilcrease Museum Rd
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Looking for a way to exercise your mind and body while having fun?  Laughter Yoga may be just what you're looking for.  This popular new class is low-impact and requires no special...

Cost: Free

Where:
LIFE Senior Services
5950 E. 31st St.
Tulsa, OK
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Sponsor: LIFE Senior Services
Telephone: (918) 664-9000
Contact Name: Emily Fox

More information

Signified by the balance between day & night, the Autumn Equinox serves as an opportunity to retreat from the harried pace of life, reflect upon that which is coming to an...

Cost: $375

Where:
The Ofi House
34477 S 502 Rd.
Park Hill, OK  74451
View map »


Sponsor: YogaQuest
Telephone: (918) 622-5454
Contact Name: Dee Anne Day
Website »

More information

Orth Contemporary is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new Silver Deposit paintings by Jimi Gleason on view at the gallery from September 7ththrough October 19th.    ...

Cost: free

Where:
Orth Contemporary
20 South Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74104
View map »


Telephone: (918) 565-9404
Contact Name: Katie
Website »

More information

Orth Contemporary is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new Silver Deposit paintings by Jimi Gleason on view at the gallery from September 7ththrough October 19th.    ...

Cost: free

Where:
Orth Contemporary
20 South Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74104
View map »


Telephone: (918) 565-9404
Contact Name: Katie
Website »

More information

Join us to celebrate 15 years of the Oklahoma Aquarium and the opening of our newest exhibit, the Polynesian Reef on September 22, 2018!  The new exhibit will showcase over 70 species of South...

Cost: 15.95

Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
300 S Aquarium Drive
Jenks, OK  74037
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Sponsor: Oklahoma Aquarium
Telephone: 918-528-1577
Contact Name: Laura Long
Website »

More information

Teachers and administrators can ring in the school year with a sweet deal.   Every Sunday thru Thursday in September, a school ID will get teachers and administrators a half-priced Four...

Cost: 1/2 priced Four-Course Classic

Where:
The Melting Pot of Tulsa
300 Riverwalk Terrace #190
Jenks, OK  74037
View map »


Telephone: 918-299-8000
Website »

More information

The Oklahoma Aquarium will celebrate the grand opening of the newest exhibit, The Polynesian Reef, with Luau open to the public. The Polynesian Reef Exhibit will be the second largest exhibit at...

Cost: free

Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Dr
Jenks, OK  74037
View map »

More information

Batman is coming to Broken Arrow! September 22 is the 4th annual Batman Day. Come in costume and meet some of your favorite characters. There will be a great charity auction full of wonderful items...

Cost: $10

Where:
The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Broken Arr
1400 W Washington
Broken Arrow, OK  74011
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Sponsor: The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Broken Arrow
Telephone: 918-258-7545
Contact Name: Wendi Bowman
Website »

More information

The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) hosts a Swing dance and lessons  The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) is the only UNESCO recognized dance organization in Oklahoma.  We are a 501c3...

Cost: $7

Where:
Community Center - South Minister Presby Church
3500 So Peoria
1/2 west of Peoria, on 35pl behind the church
Tulsa, OK  74102
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Sponsor: The Ok Swing Syndicate
Telephone: 918-450-691
Contact Name: Rita Robbins
Website »

More information

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TULtalk


The decal on my car doesn’t scream ‘athlete’

Despite this, my 5-year-old daughter and I still managed to complete the Tess Trail Run benefiting the Tristesse Grief Center.

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Video: Tulsa Girls Art School

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Episode 1: Artists in the Schools with Aleks Kitchens

Anna interviews Aleks Kitchens about the Artists in the Schools program operated by ahha Tulsa.

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Things to do in Tulsa in August

Everything from arena concerts to sand volleyball and local theater for your entertainment this month.

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Staying Power

Why six alums of City Year and Teach for America now call Tulsa home

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