It didn’t take emergency personnel long to respond to the scene after being dispatched to a structure fire call mid-afternoon in the 600 block of West Burleson Street on Monday, July 27. Their quick response saved neighbors from having their homes suffer the same fate. A neighbor’s quick thinking to report the fire saved the victim’s animals who were tied up in the back yard.
When the first of two Wharton Volunteer Fire Department trucks arrived, one neighbor near the structure fire on West Colorado Street was using his hose to water his lawn and a garage to keep the fire from spreading. Luckily for him, precipitation from Hurricane Hanna had dumped several inches of rain the previous days and the grass was green, as were the leaves from nearby trees.
But, all of this didn’t help Justin Vaughan’s circumstances, including his family, as he could only look on helplessly as several Wharton VFD fire fighters worked together to put out the flames that intensified in the middle of the home, resulting in large plumes of smoke rising several feet into the air. They initially used a WVFD pumper (750 gallons of water) to put out the flames. They were assisted by Rodrick Taylor, who is a part-time deputy constable for Wharton County Precinct 2. Taylor is also a full-time Houston fire fighter.
“My niece was cutting the yard and I was standing on the porch, and all of a sudden we started seeing flames shooting out,” said an eyewitness named Rose Mary, who is the next door neighbor. “The fire caught on quick.”
Just as she finished speaking to the Journal-Spectator, Vaughan walked out from the back of his yard with two dogs on leashes.
Despite the heavy smoke working against him in the back of his home, Vaughan managed to walk out unscathed with two of his canines, as his third dog came running toward them from the front of the property. Vaughan rested with the dogs under a mesquite tree that was in his neighbor’s lawn.
Vaughan said his neighbor’s quick thinking saved his animals.
“Thank God for the neighbor; I was walking down the street,” Vaughan said. “Thank God my neighbor told me my house was on fire. My dogs would have been burned.”
The third dog and much smaller in stature, was running loose, and appeared confused by the circumstances around him in the streets and the yard. Several times the canine came near firefighters in front of the smoky home. About 25 minutes after other Wharton PD officers closed off the street, Police Chief Terry Lynch spoke to Vaughan, recommending to him that his dogs be placed in the care of Wharton Animal Control, while he tended to other matters.
Chief Anthony Abbott, with the Wharton VFD, said the department requested backup and received it from Hungerford and Glen Flora VFDs. One fire fighter from the Boling VFD was also assisting.
Abbott said WVFD were at another call on Mockingbird Street to tend to a downed cable wires call. They were not far from West Burleson and received the call out of the station within a couple of minutes.
“Time was of essence when we got the call,” Abbott said. “During the day time we try to employ four people just for that reason.”
The reason is to have personnel respond to not just one call, but multiple calls, which is what occurred at midday for the WVFD.
Abbott expressed his sorrow for the family who lost everything in the house fire located at 613 West Burleson. It could have affected the neighbors just as badly had WVFD not been able to establish a water supply within five minutes of the call.
Abbott said the back part of the home was what was fully involved. Once an investigation is completed, he will comment on what stated the fire.
“I don’t know what started the fire at this point,” Abbott said.
Helping the family
Chief Abbott was not at the scene, but he did comment through a Journal-Spectator live video on Facebook when the fire was occurring that the American Red Cross had been notified of the family’s circumstances.
Later that evening, First Baptist Church of Wharton announced it was trying to raise funds for the family, saying their immediate need had been met.
“Many of you, our First Family, as well as members of our community, have reached out concerning helping Justin Vaughan and his family in the loss of their home today in a fire,” the church said via its Facebook page. “Their immediate needs have been met. There will, however, be much needed going forward.”
The church office is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The church number is 979-532-4295.