October 19, 2011 12:00 PM

Trace Adkins has cheated death more than a few times in his 49 years: Two near-fatal car accidents, a run-in with a bulldozer and a bullet through his heart haven’t stopped him. So when a fire gutted his Brentwood, Tenn., home on June 4, he wasn’t about to let misfortune get the upper hand. “In a list of tragic things I’ve had happen in my life, I don’t know if ‘house burning down’ even makes the top 10,” he says.

It’s that wry humor-along with a deep gratitude for what wasn’t lost-that has kept Adkins and his family buoyed in the aftermath of the blaze. Sparked by a faulty power strip in the garage, flames consumed their 5,500-sq.-ft. home and most of their possessions, but all three of Trace and wife Rhonda’s daughters, who were home with their nanny, escaped unharmed. “Not even a scratch,” says Rhonda, who, at the time of the fire, was en route from the airport after a getaway with Adkins. (Adkins, meanwhile, was on his way to Alaska for a show.) “We could have been planning a funeral. We were so lucky.”

Although their girls have struggled with their grief over the tragedy (“We encourage them to talk and field questions as they come,” Adkins says), it also brought them closer together-quite literally. After their home burned, the family (along with their two Australian shepherds Daisy and Bella, whom Brianna rescued from the blaze) spent two months living in their weekend cabin about 45 minutes south of Nashville. With one master bedroom and a downstairs area lined with bunk beds for the girls, “we were on top of each other,” says Rhonda, 47, “but it was good. You can’t get away from each other, so there were lots of extra hugs.” Adds Adkins: “We’re so blessed we had another place to go.” Besides, he jokes, “when you’re living out of a suitcase, you don’t really have to have that much room.”

The family has since moved into a rental house near their old home, although Adkins said that with tour dates and appearances for his new album Proud To Be Here beckoning, he hasn’t spent as much time there as he would like. “I want to be with the kids and be as supportive and hands-on as I can be,” he says. And he and Rhonda are also eager to rebuild. The couple already have plans to build another house on property they own about three miles from the home that burned, close enough for the girls to continue at their schools and remain connected to their friends, “to give them a little continuity,” he says.

One must for the new house? “I’ll want to have a sprinkler system,” he says with a laugh. But rather than focusing on replacing things, he says, he’s happy for the chance to appreciate what they already have.

“I don’t think we should try to fill the holes with more stuff or by going on spending sprees,” Adkins says. “I hope we take a positive lesson away from this and focus more on what’s really important: us as a family.”

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