Decatur firefighter Armando Fernandez emerged from a house filled with flames and smoke cradling a week-old black puppy in his gloved hands.
“Oh, thank God!” gasped neighbor Emma Pack, as firefighters rescued the last of all seven animals trapped inside. The single-story home on Private Road 4435, southeast of Decatur and near New Fairview, caught fire late Wednesday morning.
Candice Taylor was living at the home with her 11- and 16-year-old daughters, both students in the Decatur school district. No one was home though when the fire erupted.
Neighbors were the first ones to notice the smoke and flames pouring from the roof.
“I was crying,” Pack said when she saw her neighbor’s home was on fire. “I knew there were animals inside the house.”
Decatur, Rhome and East Wise fire departments all responded within moments. They first rescued the cat, three dogs and two of the puppies, but there was a third tiny, black puppy still hidden somewhere in house almost 30 minutes after the fire was first noticed.
“Me and Jed Boyd kept looking for him,” Fernandez said. “It was difficult in all the smoke, but we finally found him hiding underneath the bed.”
“We thought that none of the puppies were going to make it,” said neighbor John Pack. “Then sure enough they started carrying them all out.
“Those guys are volunteers, and they walked right into the fire to save a puppy. No one was left behind. Not even a puppy. That means a lot. It’s a good story, but it’s also sad because it’s a total loss.”
Despite the quick response of the fire departments, most of the home was consumed by the blaze. The family staying there didn’t have renter’s insurance.
“They lost everything,” said Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard.
He said the fire was caused by an electrical failure from wiring in the attic.
The home is owned by Michael and Brandy Cravens of Newark. They had been making payments on the home for several years and had almost paid it off, Mrs. Cravens said.