The Norman Transcript

January 25, 2014

Fire destroys south Noble home; residents believe space heater sparked blaze

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — A fire on 48th Avenue Southeast near Cemetery Road destroyed a small home and its contents after a space heater malfunctioned Friday afternoon. No one was injured in the blaze.

Safely across the street, the Butts family watched their home burn.

“We’ve lost everything, and our two children have lost everything. We have a 7-year-old and an 8-year-old,” said the mother, Jami Lavon-Butts.

She said the children were home sick, but everyone escaped safely. Lavon-Butts said her mother, now a resident of Texas, has owned the home for 22 years. Lavon-Butts has lived there for three years.

Jason Butts said the cold weather froze their water and they put a space heater in the well house in an attempt to thaw the lines. The couple believes the heater malfunctioned and started the fire.

“We saw it start and called 911,” she said. “It was to the house in five minutes.”

Neighbors Robert and Kayla Bullock said they saw the fire start and saw the family escape safely. Robert Bullock said his cousin, Greg Fulks, lives in the mobile home next door. He turned on Fulks’ water hose to wet the grass and keep the flames from spreading until Fulks showed up.

Bullock and Fulks said they have been careful to keep the dead grass trimmed close to their homes because of the high fire danger. Residents of the Slaughterville/Noble area are no strangers to fire.

In March 2011, National Guard helicopters were called out to help battle a wildfire near Slaughterville between Maguire and Banner roads. Then, in August 2012, a fire that started in the Slaughterville area burned for days as it was pushed north and east by high winds that took it across State Highway 9 and into east Norman.

Friday’s house fire was in an incorporated portion of Cleveland County, which is part of the Slaughterville fire response area. Slaughterville is an all-volunteer fire department. City Manager Marsha Blair is among the long-time volunteers firefighters.

Slaughterville received mutual aid from Noble, Cedar Country, Purcell and Lexington fire departments. Deputies from the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office also provided support at the scene.

Slaughterville Assistant Fire Chief Chris Tolson said the call came in at 12:33 p.m. The first truck was on scene within seven minutes.

When firefighters arrived, “there was an outbuilding fully involved, a grass fire around the house and the back side of the house was already starting to ignite,” Tolson said.

High winds, low humidity and dry conditions contributed to the incendiary situation. The blaze was quickly controlled, but firefighters couldn’t extinguish the fire inside the wood-frame home.

“All of the additions and siding made it hard to get to,” Tolson said.

The house was a story-and-a-half with a large attic under the roof above the main floor.

Firefighters finished up around 4:45 p.m.

“We had one minor injury. The firefighter was treated and released on the scene,” Tolson said. “We had 37 personnel on the scene.”

Cedar Country, Noble and Lexington all brought tankers to fight the blaze. Firefighters also used the fire hydrant two and a half miles away to refill and shuttle water to the scene. Tolson said the volunteer department relies heavily on mutual aid to fight the wildfires and structure fires in the area.

“The relationships that we have with the other departments surrounding us over the years has really grown,” Tolson said. “Pretty much any time we call, they are there.”

The Red Cross has arranged temporary shelter for the family.

Lavon-Butts said her children are taking the loss well. When she told her son his Legos were all gone and that would be a lot to replace, she said he told her, “That’s OK, Mom. We don’t have to replace them.”

Joy Hampton




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