By LIBBY CLUETT
While the Booths had just finished baking a birthday cake and were fixing lunch Saturday afternoon shortly before 3 p.m., their smoke alarm signaled a fire, originating from the laundry room, according to Dawn Booth. The fire quickly consumed the west end of their home on 214 Olsen 1st St. and smoke and fire destroyed nearly all their belongings.
Palo Pinto County Fire Marshal Buddy Harwell said Monday that the cause of the blaze is still under investigation. He said he is waiting to hear from the homeowners’ insurance agent, but noted the home’s electrical system was the likely origin of the fire.
The fire began in the kitchen and pantry area near the rear of the home, Harwell said, explaining flames destroyed about half of the residence. The entire home sustained heavy smoke damage, he added, and firefighters cut holes in the attic to allow smoke to escape.
Dawn Booth said the main damage was to possessions.
“This is just stuff,” she said as she surveyed blackened, water-soaked belongings in the kitchen and living room.
“We are blessed,” she said, adding that they have insurance and they were able to get themselves and their dogs out of the house. She said her husband, Paul, was treated for smoke inhalation at Palo Pinto General Hospital.
The American Red Cross put the family up at the Best Western, she said, and provided them with replacement toiletries and clothes.
“If we didn’t have a little bit of help, we couldn’t have replaced [these items], even with insurance, since it was a holiday weekend,” Dawn Booth said.
At noon Monday, an insurance adjuster walked through the house with the Booths. Although an emergency water/smoke cleanup company was called to survey the home, Booth said the interior walls will likely need to be gutted and rebuilt and will take four to five months.
In the meantime, she said they are staying in a hotel and are looking for a house to rent.
She said her husband’s parents, Jerry and Bernice Booth, were killed in a house fire Sept. 20, 1991. On Monday, she showed some blackened glassware in their living room, which were the only items that survived that fatal fire.
Booth attributed the alarm system to allowing them to act quickly. She said they bought a relatively expensive system that has smoke detectors, as well as “big bell system heat alarms in each room.
“Less than two weeks ago we remodeled the bathroom,” she said, adding that the faucets are supposed to arrive in a few days.
Booth pointed to a twisted, burned freezer door. She said they had just filled their freezer with meat, recently purchased from Costco, and “the firefighter said, ‘When I pulled off the door [the meat] was already cooked and looked like barbecue.”
Index reporter Chris Agee contributed to this article.