Family escapes fire with lives, little else

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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A fire Sunday night has left a Newark family with next to nothing.

Kim Ballard said she and her husband, Freddie, had put their grandkids to bed and were outside smoking a cigarette before going to bed themselves when they began hearing a popping sound just before 11.

They first thought someone was trying to break in to a house next door, but Kim quickly realized it was coming from their home at 536 Wise St.

“When I opened the door, it was just smoke,” Kim said. “I started screaming, ‘It’s a fire!'”

Picking Up the Pieces

PICKING UP THE PIECES – Kim Ballard looks at family photos pulled from her home following Sunday night’s fire. She lived in the home with her husband and two grandchildren. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

She and Freddie ran inside to get their 8-year-old grandson and 11-year-old granddaughter, who live with them. Kim threw a wet towel over their faces and hurried them out the front door and across the street.

Meanwhile, Freddie began attempting to put the flames out himself with a garden hose, but with the house already filled with smoke, he couldn’t stay inside more than 30 seconds at a time because he could not breathe.

“I told my husband, ‘We have got to stop. We’re going to kill ourselves,'” Kim said.

Four minutes after the fire was reported, the Newark Volunteer Fire Department arrived and reported seeing flames coming out of the roof and a bedroom window. Boyd, Rhome and Haslet fire departments also responded to provide mutual aid.

Wise County Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis said firefighters initially had a difficult time accessing the fire because it had traveled into the attic space, allowing flames to spread from one end of the home to the other.

The fire also spread along a breezeway into a shed next to the home, damaging the shed and destroying a riding lawnmower. A vehicle parked next to the home was damaged by radiant heat.

Firefighters battled the blaze for an hour-and-a-half before bringing it under control. By then, the home and its contents had been destroyed.

Travis investigated the fire and determined it originated in a wall where an addition connected to the original structure. The original mobile home wiring was aluminum, and the added room used copper wiring. The two elements don’t mix, and he believes the fire had been “cooking” for a while before it was noticed.

On Monday morning, Kim flipped through a badly-burned photo album next to a small pile of charred items in the driveway of their home. Pictures of smiling family members were now rimmed in black.

Although the home had been insured previously, it was not covered at the time of the fire. Kim explained that flood damage in one of the rooms a few years back resulted in increased premiums the family could no longer afford.

A series of setbacks over the past several years had also made things tight around the household. Freddie had a heart attack, resulting in quadruple-bypass surgery and requiring an early retirement. Likewise, Kim had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, which also meant surgery and a retirement from teaching.

She was scheduled for another doctor’s visit Tuesday to set up a second brain surgery.

Their two grandkids, who attend Seven Hills Elementary, lost all their school supplies and new school clothes just a little more than 24 hours before the start of a new school year.

Red Cross came to the home early Monday morning and provided the family with a change of clothes, snacks and a voucher for a motel stay in order to meet their immediate needs. Help moving forward, however, was less certain.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go from here,” Kim said as she began to sob.

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