"I thought, well, my house is on fire, that's just what I need now," she said. Ashley had been dropping her husband off at work when the fire department first arrived at her home.
"We've just had a rough time. You put one foot down and have to fall back. Like I told my husband, surely to goodness we will get a better year coming," she said. And so far so good. The new year was looking "a whole lot better."
The department had heard of the family's struggle from the District Chief Troy Gingrass' father, who collects trash in the area, said Assistant Chief Darren Killin.
"He really stressed to Troy that they needed help, and they had kids, and were going to have a rough Christmas."
Enough toys for 65 children
The departments have also collected enough toys to distribute to 65 children in need this year, a program they said they plan on continuing next season. Especially so, now having seen how the children appreciate the gifts.
The Ashleys were going to have trouble waiting for Christmas to unwrap their toys, they agreed.
As Courtney, 4, Waylon, 3, and Dakota, 9, began rifling through the box of wrapped presents, it looked as though Santa had come through for them. But then again, Courtney said she always knew Santa was real. It didn't hurt that he came in a fire engine, either.
"Can we keep the fire truck here?" asked Waylon.
Paula Ashley thanked the departments for their generosity. "It was a big blessing," she added.
Brown said the look on the children's faces, after they realized Santa drove a fire engine, was worth it.
"In my 21 years of being in the service, I've gotten a lot of compliments, like when there's been a house fire and nothing's left, and a little old lady came out and thanked us for trying to save it...
But last night the smile on the kids' faces when we showed them those presents, that did it for me."