0

Jonesboro family loses home in mid-day fire

Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Jonesboro resident, Eugene Towe, left his home at 6984 Doncaster Road on Wednesday morning to talk to some friends at the nearby Tara Woods apartment complex.

When he returned, just after noon, his house was on fire. He had lived in the house -- which was owned by an out-of-state sibling -- for 12 years, he said.

Towe said he lived there with his two teenage daughters, one of his sons, and the boyfriend of one of his daughters. No one was home when the fire began, he said.

"I'm upset," said Towe as he watched smoke rise from the house. "My wife just left me, and now, my home has burned down. I ain't going to have a place to live now."

Clayton County Fire Department spokesman, Battalion Chief Landry Merkison, said firefighters were called to the house at 12:15 p.m., and had the fire under control 30 minutes later. The fire destroyed 85 to 90 percent of the two-story home, and the family was "very lucky" that no one was home when the fire began, he said.

Smoke billowed out of upstairs and downstairs windows, and the chimney. As firefighters extinguished the flames, many of the external burn marks on the house were centered around the living room and carport area. The window to the living room was gone, and part of the shutters on it were burned away, while the roof frame, and tiles over the window were charred.

A pair of firefighters had to battle flames that had spread to a red, Chevrolet Blazer in the carport, first in the vehicle's engine, and then inside the passenger area of the sports utility vehicle.

As of Wednesday evening, Merkison said fire investigators had still not determined where the fire started, or what caused it.

Towe said two space heaters that had been in the living room are the only possible source that he could think of. One of his dogs had chewed part of a wire connecting the two heaters, and it had been taped over. He also said the machines were malfunctioning, and he finally had to unplug them this morning before he left the house.

"If was turning on and off, by itself," Towe said. "We'd have to sit in the living room, so we could turn it off whenever it came on."

Towe also said the family's five dogs were evacuated from the house, into the back yard, but two of them, an adult pit bull, and a baby pit bull, could not be accounted for later.

In between telephone calls on her cell phone, Tiffany Lee, 15, one of Towe's daughters, said she believed she and her family had lost most, if not all, of their possessions in the fire. She was out of the house, with her boyfriend, when her father called her to let her know the house was on fire.

Her father's brother, who owned the house, was going to fly down from Chicago to help the family, she said.

"We just lost everything," said Lee, with sadness in her voice. "My sister's room was right next to the living room, so I'm pretty sure everything she had is gone ... I'm sure my bed is gone, and I had a nice bed, too. I just wanted to get my clothes out of my room when I found out the house was on fire."