Angelina Co. family loses everything in early morning house fire

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - With the help of a Good Samaritan who happened by at the right time, an Angelina County family escaped an early morning house fire with little more than the clothes on their backs Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning's fire completely gutted the Oates Lane home the family has owned since the 1940s. Eddie J. Hawk's father built the home in 1946. "I've lived here on that land since I was about 17," Hawk said.

The fire was the latest event in what has been a tumultuous month. The family lost its patriarch on Dec. 1, and a family friend that had been living with them lost her Huntington home to a fire earlier this year.

"My son lost his job, he lost his father, now he's lost his house. My husband just passed away on December first." Hawk said.

Linda Burns, the family friend who was staying with them, got up around 7 a.m. to go to the bathroom, smelled smoke, and immediately started getting everyone out of the residence.

"Linda got up to go to the bathroom and smoke was coming out of that closet in there and she hollered," Hawk said. "And they jumped up and they didn't have time to grab nothing. It was a fire already."

As it turned out, a passerby who just happened to be a former firefighter saw the smoke and rushed to offer his assistance.

"I spent a little time in the fire department years ago, so it's just protocol to make sure everything's away from the house and nobody is in the house. I checked for propane tanks," Thomas McGraw, the good Samaritan said.

By the time McGraw got to the home it was fully engulfed in flames.

"The flames were coming through the house, and I stopped and rendered aid," McGraw said. "When I got here the house was fully engulfed. People was standing in the yard; I got the people away."

McGraw realized that one of the female residents was so frantic that she was having trouble talking to the 911 dispatcher; he took the phone from her and finished the call. Once he made sure the family was safe, he used a water hose to stop the flames.

"You're not going to stop a hundred year old pine house from burning, and a trailer house usually takes about seven minutes to hit the ground," McGraw said. "So, you either try to save the vehicles or the house close by, so I took the water hose and saved the house that was about 20 feet away.

According to the home owner's son, Mike Williford, he, his wife, and a family friend, rushed out of the home and into the cold winter morning in their pajamas. They were unable to save anything, not even their shoes. The home and everything in it were a total loss.

The family friend, Burns, is dealing with an illness and has a colostomy bag. She lost all of her medications in the fire. In addition, her car received fire damage, and her keys were destroyed in the fire.

Volunteers from the Lufkin American Red Cross office provided the family with money, got their shoe and clothes sizes, and told the family that they would take care of buying new medication for Burns.

Now, the Williford family and Burns will live in the nearby mobile home owned by Mike Williford's mother, Eddie Joyce Hawk, who is recovering from a recent cataract surgery.

Firefighters from several area volunteer fire departments worked together to battle the blaze, which was just outside the Lufkin city limits. The family says the house was destroyed in about 30 minutes.

It's unknown what started the fire, but Eddie hawk believes it was a wood burning heater.

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