The old Robbins house, built in 1910 on the historic north side of Apalachicola was claimed by fire Thursday morning.
The house at 213 US 98 was largely destroyed, but all of the six occupants escaped injury.
The call came in at 5:01 a.m. One volunteer firefighter said he passed the house on the way to the firehouse and could see the second floor was already burning.
When Apalachicola firefighters reached the house at around 5:14 a.m., the second floor was engulfed.
St. George Island and Eastpoint Volunteer Fire Departments also responded to the alarm. Eastpoint Fire Chief George Pruett said the blaze was visible as the department’s trucks crossed the John Gorrie Bridge.
Corky Dykes and Rena Enfinger shared an apartment on the second floor of the Robbins home with daughter Delores Marcum and her two children, Emanuel, 6, and four-month-old Tommy.
Dykes and Enfinger said Marcum woke them up at about 1 a.m. to say she smelled something burning. They said they searched the house except for the second-story rooms occupied by William Laine, who owned the Robbins house. They found nothing so they went back to bed.
Dykes awoke again around 4:15 a.m. and said the smell was stronger. When he tried to wake Enfinger, she was sluggish and appeared to be affected by the fumes, he said.
Dykes said he then went to the door of Laine’s apartment and kicked it in, where he found Laine sitting on the corner of the bed, which was in flames. Dykes attempted to douse the fire with water from a bathroom but rapidly realized it was futile.
“I threw the bucket on the flames and ran to get my family out,” he said.
Enfinger said the baby was unresponsive when she took him from his crib. She performed CPR and revived him. Marcum said she took both children to Apalachicola pediatrician Dr. Robert Head the next day and he pronounced them unharmed.
After evacuating his family, Dykes said he went back for Laine. He said his landlord seemed to have been affected by the smoke and didn’t want to leave his rooms.
“The fire truck is on the way,´ Dykes said Laine told him. “ It will go out.”
Dykes said he dragged Laine from the burning room. “I told him I’m not going to let you burn alive,” Dykes said.
At 6 a.m., there was a cold drizzle as Savannah Dykes tearfully watched her home burn. Corky Dykes’ daughter resided on the first floor of the house with her daughter Layla. Both were out of the house, visiting a relative at the time of the blaze.
“I’m glad we weren’t here when it started. I’m glad everybody made it out but all of my stuff is in there. I guess I’ll come back later and look for my cat,” she said, without much hope.
The cat, Mahi, a male Siamese, is still missing. The Dykes family asks that anyone who has seen the cat contact them. A dog belonging to Dykes and Enfinger, and an elderly black Labrador retriever belonging to Laine, escaped unhurt.
American Red Cross representative Gathana Parmenas was on hand at 10 a.m. interviewing the residents and arranging for temporary housing.
In the gray morning, exhausted firefighters stood vigil over the steaming shell as they rolled up their hoses.
Firefighter Mark Creamer was proud some of the lower floor was still standing of the home, which was named for a former county sheriff.
“We saved some of it. That's a fat lighter house," he said. "Those walls are hollow. You can stand in the attic and look straight down to the ground. It creates a chimney effect. The deluge cannons worked great. They were what put out the fire."
Three blocks of US 98 were cordoned off by emergency workers. Duke Energy power lines running along the adjacent alley burned and fell, leaving live wires for firefighters to contend with. By the start of the work day, Apalachicola Fire Chief George Watkins had reopened a single lane on US 98, but the fire would need attention for hours to come.
“It's too early to call the fire marshal. It's still burning. It will be back," he said at the time. The State Fire Marshall’s office said Monday the fire is still under investigation.
Corky Dykes, Enfinger, Laine and the Marcum family are staying at the Rancho Inn, which the Red Cross paid for temporarily. The families expect to receive funds from Laine’s father to cover a more extended period.
Dykes said his family would move into public housing as soon as they can replace birth certificates and other identification lost in the fire. They said Sandy Hengle, homeless liaison for the Franklin County Schools, is helping them obtain the papers.
Hengle, who spent hours at the Robbins house the morning of the fire, was taken to the emergency room and treated for respiratory problems related to smoke inhalation the next day.
In their hotel room on Tuesday, Delores Marcum, Corky Dykes and Enfinger said they have lost virtually everything.
“We are so grateful to the people who have come forward to help us,” said Enfinger. “We have enough clothes for the baby. A lady drove down from Alabama to bring me some clothes.”
A benefit account has been set up at Centennial Bank for the family, under the Ruby Dykes.