In the wake of a pair of weekend fires, two families are struggling to survive.
A Carrabelle fire Friday totally destroyed a trailer belonging to Blanche Wheeler, and an Eastpoint fire Sunday morning did the same to the home of Martha Ann and Joseph Putnal.
On Friday afternoon, Wheeler, 72, was in the kitchen of her home at 160 Woodill Road when her 4-year-old grandson, Jaden Bryce, rushed in and told her to leave the trailer because it was on fire. Wheeler and the boy barely managed to escape the blaze, which killed two pet birds caged inside.
The single-wide trailer was a total loss. Deborah Jamison, with the State Fire Marshall’s Office, said the fire originated on the porch, and has been ruled accidental. The Wheelers said they believe little Jaden may have started the blaze while playing.
“At least my little grandson didn’t get burned up,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler shared her home with Jaden and his older brother and sister, John Michael Neel, 14, and Ashley Jo Neel 10; children of Blanche’s son Bodie who lives in Carrabelle. Blanche Wheeler’s younger son Trent, 24, also lived in her trailer.
After the blaze, Wheeler found herself with no purse, no identification and no medication. Her prescriptions were filled on Saturday.
The Wheeler family lives with a granddaughter for the short haul. “I have no insurance and no money,” said Wheeler, in a telephone interview.
She said she has received interim aid from the American Red Cross. “I need everything,” she said. “If somebody would like to donate a trailer I would be happy with anything. I need all kinds of furniture and household things.”
She said the family lost all their clothing. If you can help, please call Blanche’s sister, Connie James at 697-3339 or 697- 4123.
Was a dream omen of disaster?
An Eastpoint family is also homeless after a Sunday blaze.
Martha Ann Putnal, 47, said she believes a frayed power chord caused the electrical fire that destroyed her double-wide trailer at 677 Wilderness Road. The State Fire Marshall’s Office said the fire stemmed from some sort of electrical problem.
Martha Ann believes a bad dream earlier in the week warned of the events of Sunday morning.
She had not slept for three days after dreaming that a sinister dark man with flames in his eyes told her to kiss him. Her blind son Cody also was awake most of Saturday night, keeping her company.
The rest of the family was asleep when Cody began to experience trouble breathing. He blamed a trash fire in a neighbor’s yard but when the fumes grew thicker he shouted to his mother that the stove was on fire and they ran to the kitchen to check and found no fire.
Then, Martha Ann recalled, she noticed smoke pouring from the end of the hall. Cody ran and put his hands on the bedroom door. It was hot. He yelled “Call 911.” They roused the house.
Cody retrieved a small safe from his room before escaping. His mother took only photos of her grandmother and mother, believing the fire department would extinguish the blaze.
Cody woke his brothers Joey and Mason, and Mason’s girlfriend Ashley, who all were asleep in their travel trailers in the yard. Joey began pouring water on the flames; the garden hose was too short to use.
“We had been doing a lot of work on the house,” said Martha Ann. They had recently replaced the home’s roof, damaged in Tropical Storm Debby, and their bedroom floor. “We had an electrician lined up to redo all the wiring,” she said.
Sadly, the Eastpoint volunteer firefighters were not able to save the Putnal’s home.
Martha, who was able to save her wheelchair, said the family home also was shared with husband, Joseph, who was seriously injured in an automobile accident last year and is seeking disability. On Monday, with a broken arm and hip still on the mend, Joseph had metal staples removed from his arm and shoulder.
Mason and Joey have returned home to their trailers. The rest of the family lost everything. Except for Martha, whose shoes were in her car, the family lost most of their clothing including shoes and coats.
Mason has taken responsibility for a miniature horse and three dogs belonging to the family. Food and supplies are needed for the animals.
An elderly veteran, Eddie Marshall, 65, occupies a trailer across the road with no electricity. Mason had brought his blankets and clothing home to wash, so Marshall lost all his household linens and clothing other than what he wore at the time of the fire. A car battery also was destroyed in the fire.
The Red Cross housed the Putnals at the Rancho Inn through Tuesday night. Martha said she has no idea what they would do after that. She said she contacted Salvation Army and Capitol Area Community Services and was provided a $600 food voucher and other coupons for used clothes and other goods at Goodwill. On Tuesday, she said the family had received all the clothing they needed for now.
Like the Wheelers, the Putnals need a new trailer or other residence, housewares and furniture as well as any available financial help.
If you can assist them call 227-4504 or 524 7424.