Weatherford Safety Manager puts theory into action
by Jon Decker
Around 11:30 p.m. on Friday, June 24, 2016, my wife and I arrived at our Brooks home from a work function and we noticed a fascinating storm starting to brew. We were in our back yard watching the rain and watching the lighting and listening to the thunder. There was some pretty intense lighting strikes and very loud thunder.
After about ten minutes past midnight, there was a very bright bolt of lightning and a loud thunderclap with power like I’d never heard before. And because of the unusual force, I knew something was not right. It was about five minutes later we were talking about going into the house for the evening when I noticed some smoke in the distance that was moving over the houses on our side of the street.
I mentioned to Joanne that that bolt of lightning hit something nearby and we need to go and have a look. We got into our vehicle, drove around the corner and down the street five houses. There was a roof smoldering!
We immediately pulled over and I ran up to the house, knocked on the door and hollered: “Your house is on fire!” I tried the door handle and to my surprise the door was unlocked. I opened the door and stood in the entranceway of the house and hollered once again. There seemed to be three people in the house sleeping: an elderly lady and two mid-aged brothers. They all woke up from my hollering and I explained what was going on. They panicked and quickly starting to gather up a few items.
The neighbor to the north of them heard the ruckus we were making and came outside. Joanne explained to them what was going on and that neighbor gathered her family and left their house as well. I then proceeded to the house south of the burning house and I woke up an elderly lady and explained to her that there was fire nearby and we got her out of her home.
Once we notified all of the neighbors and got them evacuated, we were able to focus on helping the first family whose house was on fire. Once we got the mom out of the house Joanne walked her to our vehicle as it was raining outside. I was in the house telling the brothers what items they should grab if at all possible – we all know the mind can go blank in an emergency situation like this. We put leashes on all three dogs, got them out of the house, and took them to our truck where the mother was waiting.
As we were getting the dogs and people out, the flames on the roof were growing exponentially and licking at the branches of the tall pine tree above not only the burning house abut also the neighbors’ house. The smoke inside the house was beginning to make it difficult to see and breathe. Our evacuation time was getting shorter. Joanne was on the front grass giving us a flame update as we were still in the house gathering items for the family.
At about 12:20 a.m., I made the decision that me and the two boys should evacuate as it was now unsafe to be inside the house for any reason.
The fire department and other emergency service vehicles showed up shortly after we evacuated the house. I explained to the Fire Chief what was done already, how many people were in each house, that everyone had been evacuated and are safe so all they had to do is contain the fire to the one house and get it put out.
At that point, the fire department took control of the situation and Joanne and I just made sure the family and their dogs were comfortable and dry and checked them for shock on occasion. We stayed at the scene for another forty minutes and then opted to head home since we couldn’t assist anymore; our job was done and we were very cold and wet from the rain.