Gene Jones was outside his Commander Drive home cutting his grass when he saw smoke pouring out to the road.
Moments later, his across-the-street neighbor was in the street, appearing distressed and disoriented.
“I saw him in the road, and he said, ‘Call the fire truck,’ I ran inside and I called 9-1-1,” Jones said.
The Tuesday afternoon fire in Hall County destroyed the home of a family of five.
Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell said the fire appears to be accidental, and “possibly electrical in nature starting in the master bedroom.”
The house is a total loss, Kimbrell said.
The family members, sitting together in a tight formation, watched from a porch across the street as firefighters continued to control the smoke once the flames were down, as steam poured from the charred remains.
“We lost a dog,” resident Karen Durham said with tears in her eyes. “Our other little dog got out.”
“It’s been a rough morning,” said Durham’s mother, Breena Whitlock.
Durham was at work, and the three children at school when the fire began, she said. Her husband Ricky, who works a late shift, was alone in the house and asleep.
“No, there’s no smoke alarms,” he said. “I don’t know how I woke up. I guess it was just around the time I would have been waking up for work anyway.”
He said he grabbed a dog and ran out, choking from the smoke. Medics treated him for smoke inhalation at the scene.
Jones said that the neighborhood is close-knit, with many longtime residents.
“Everybody knows everybody here, and we’re going to do what we can to help them,” Jones said.
In the meantime, Red Cross workers arrived to provide immediate, emergency assistance.