Foster family thankful to survive Madison County house fire

Seven family members escaped a house fire in Summitville. (Photo by Dedira Pierce)

A Madison County couple that has fostered hundreds of children are trying to cope with the loss of their home in a fire.

Dewayne and Tina Presley realize just how close they came to tragedy when their Summitville home caught fire.

"It wouldn't have been a pretty sight. Would have had to make arrangements for seven people," Dewayne said.

But the Presleys got out, thanks to a daughter who was up late playing video games. She smelled smoke and sounded the alarm.

"God was with us or we wouldn't be here," Dewayne said.

Friends and neighbors are bringing help. Especially family, because the couple has literally hundreds of children.

"It would have to be 300 or more," Tina said.

You heard right.

Over more than two decades, the Presleys cared for that many stepchildren and, later, adoptees.

"Tony, he's an Army recruiter in Michigan. Two terms in Iraq," Dewayne said.

Tony was one of the hundreds of foster children or kids who needed temporary care.

"The church, they would laugh as we took up two pews," Tina said.

That included the Presleys' two birth children. Dewayne looked back Tuesday at an old picture of then-foster son Cedric and his Christmas gifts. Cedric is home from college, now their adopted son.

The couple has a wealth of children now, many of whom called back home to check up on them after the fire. One former foster daughter cried and told Tina "we can go on and I'm still here. I'll help with anything."

"From Minnesota to Virginia Beach, Florida to Montana," the Presleys said, listing where their family has spread.

They say all the kids are sharing memories.

"Whether they stayed a day or a month or a year."

Those memories include the playhouse Dewayne built that survived the fire. The "Presley Hotel," they called it. Many handprints on the basketball court and photographs were saved from the fire.

Dewayne says he had a goal every day.

"Just to make them smile. If you could make a kid smile for five minutes, you will be accomplishing a lot," he said.

"Mom and dad really don't know what they have done. They've helped a lot of people, it's amazing," said their birth daughter, Dedira Pierce.