MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – A fire quickly spread from a car to a camper van on Monday, leaving a woman in hospital, a dead family pet and a family without most of their belongings.
On Tuesday, as Ruth Smith was in hospital recovering from smoke inhalation, her relatives were searching the ruins, trying to find anything that might have survived — like a large collection of arrowheads Smith’s children had built up over the years. Or a collection of dolls given to Smith’s daughter-in-law by her grandmother.
Smith’s husband, Andy Smith, told FOX10 News he had just returned home from his auto mechanic, who had warned him that his car could catch fire if he didn’t get it fixed.
And that’s exactly what happened, as Smith said he learned from his grandson when he was putting down his groceries.
“I tried opening the hood and getting some water on it, but I don’t have water for this pump,” he said, pointing to the machine. “So it was a lost cause. The fire department is coming here and they parked the fire truck down in the ditch down there; couldn’t figure it out.”
Smith’s niece, Sarena Pitts, said the stuck truck prevented the fire department from arriving earlier.
“It was very unfortunate,” she said. “But there must have been 100 people down there – three fire engines, several police officers. They dragged the fire hose from the street all the way here.”
Smith said he was helpless to save the trailer he bought new about 40 years ago.
“It just sat there and burned and burned and burned,” he said.
Andy Smith, 72, said his three dogs got out of the burning house but one of them, Scooby, ran back inside and died.
All it seems to have managed are some cast-iron pots and pans and three harmonicas. Almost everything else is gone, Smith said, including any Christmas gifts his grandson just got. Smith has recovered the remains of an antique hunting rifle he bought more than two decades ago.
“The gun is older than me,” he said. “It’s a Winchester – what’s left of it.”
The family set up a GoFundMe account to help Smith and his wife get back on their feet.
Pitts said Smith’s grandson and son were playing in the yard when the fire broke out. She said her boy called 911 and her brother rushed over to help.
“He came here and went in and carried Ruth his wife out because she couldn’t really walk and she was in shock too. Brought them out,” she said. “They’re both on oxygen. … It’s just total, total devastation.”
Smith’s son, Joseph Smith, said he was at work with his cousin when they learned of the fire. He said Dustin Smith was a volunteer firefighter and sped to the scene.
“He grabbed the hose and went to work,” he said. “And honestly, I really feel like that part of the yard and the truck there would have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for it. … It was fantastic. It was really heroic.”
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