The home was on Corrigan Road, just east of Skidmore, and Susan and her mother, Beulah “Pat” Smith, had just returned from shopping at about 9:30 a.m.
Both women sat at a table just inside the front door at the Chisholm Trail Restaurant in Skidmore a week after the fire and described that terrible ordeal as they sipped cups of hot coffee.
Smith said she walked in the house and noticed flames licking at the bathroom wall.
She rushed outside and by the time she got out the door the flames were already moving rapidly through the house.
“I grabbed my dog and ran out, first thing,” Smith said. But the only things she managed to save from the flames were Colin, the pekingese, and herself.
Within minutes, everything else was engulfed in flames.
Leafty, who lives next door in an unfinished house, said they called the fire department. But by the time any firemen could arrive at the scene, it was too late.
“It had about gone by the time the fire department got there,” Smith lamented. “Everything went. Couldn’t save a thing.”
The home where Smith and her husband, Howard, moved to in 1988, and all the contents, everything was gone almost in the blink of an eye.
Fortunately, firefighters from several departments were able to get to the scene with tanker trucks carrying water. They kept Leafty’s home and the ground between the two structures wet so that the heat would not ignite the other structure.
“I grabbed the water hose but it was too late,” Leafty said.
Reports indicated that a 10-year-old girl had been staying with Smith. But she and her daughter explained that Leafty’s grandchildren, 11-year-old T.J. and 10-year-old Danielle, actually were living in the Leafty home. The two youngsters were taking turns spending nights with Smith so she would not be alone in the house.
“My house was under construction,” Leafty said. “We’re all living there now. We got people going out there helping finish it so it won’t be so cold.”
“We’re going to try to rebuild her house,” Leafty said of the burned structure,
Donation jars have been set up at the Chisholm Trail Restaurant and at Dahlia’s, another restaurant just down the street in Skidmore.
Leafty said the family hopes to get some help from the Habitat for Humanity organization in rebuilding the place.
But even a new home will not replace the family memories that incinerated in that house a week earlier.
“My dad passed away in ’91,” Leafty said, “and we don’t have anything of his left.”
Smith said what she hated to see go were the little things, like T.J.’s trophies and the grandchildren’s pictures.
The only thing Smith and the grandkids had left after the fire were the clothes on their backs. Skidmore area residents are helping the family out with donations.
“I don’t know what to say,” Smith commented as she sat and stared into her coffee cup. “It was just devastating.”
Skidmore resident Russell Duggans has announced that the Skidmore-Tynan Lions Club and the parishioners of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church are planning to sell turkey and dressing plates, probably on March 3, to help raise more money for the family.
The organizations are hoping to receive more donations so the family can get back on its feet and continue trying to rebuild their lives.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.