Sherrie Garcia was sitting in her neighbor Jennifer Rios’ garage in tears Wednesday as she talked about the ordeal while firefighters continued to battle the blaze an hour after it was discovered.
She and her husband, Xavier, were out when the fire started.
“We were gone about an hour and a half,” she said. “Nothing was on but the air conditioner when we left.”
Garcia said that when they returned home, they opened the door and saw the fire near the electrical panel.
“I could’ve handled it if I hadn’t lost my dog,” Garcia said, referring to her Chihuahua, which was in the home when the fire started. Then she changed her mind; she wasn’t sure if she could have handled even if the dog had survived.
Her husband had their other dog, a German shepherd, on a leash in the driveway of their home as he watched the firefighters work.
The home was a complete loss, said Hollis Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Hopkins.
The call came in just before 9:30 a.m. The home was in Hollis Fire and Rescue’s district, but Heflin and Micaville volunteer fire departments also responded, Hopkins said. The Hollis firefighters arrived first and found the two-story home engulfed in flames, he said.
Eighteen firefighters from the three departments worked for three hours and used about 12,000 gallons of water to put out the fire, he said.
The effort took “a little longer than usual,” Hopkins said. “Normally we can confine it to one room, one part of the house.”
But this fire had spread too far by the time they arrived, he said.
The house, near the intersection of County Road 13 and County Road 6, had been the couple’s home for nearly 30 years, said Kellye Henry, a lifelong friend of Sherrie Garcia. Henry, a Heflin resident, came to the house after Garcia called her about the fire.
“They raised their kids there,” said Rios, who has lived next door to the Garcias for seven years.
A neighbor called Rios about the fire while she was working at the Department of Human Resources, and she came home to see if the Garcias were all right, she said.
“They’re my friends,” Rios said. “So I wanted to make sure they were OK.”
Rios held Garcia’s hand as she sat in a patio chair in Rios’ garage while an emergency medical technician monitored Garcia’s blood pressure. Garcia mopped her face with a wet rag.
She declined to go to the hospital, and Rios’ son Jordan Davis helped Garcia to Henry’s car after the EMT urged her to get somewhere with air-conditioning.
Clint Cochran, a volunteer with the Heflin Fire Department who responded to the call, said the cause of the fire is under investigation.
Staff writer Laura Camper 256-463-2872. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.