An electrical problem is being blamed for a Saturday night fire that ravaged the home of McMinnville Alderman Jimmy Bonner.
“It’s devastating. It really is,” said Bonner. “No one ever thinks it will happen to them, but this could happen to anyone. We’re OK. That’s the main thing.”
Bonner and his wife were home at the time. He says the first clue something was wrong came with the flickering of lights in the den ceiling fan.
“My wife got up there and started wiggling and tightening the bulbs,” said Bonner. “There was a pop and everything went out. The TV and everything just went off. I thought the breaker had tripped. I went into the bedroom to turn it back on. I noticed the breaker had shot fire. We decided to just leave it off. I told her I would have to take the ceiling fan down and fix the short before I could turn the electricity back on. She said ‘Wait until tomorrow.’”
The couple then detected a burning smell coming from a bedroom closet in the same room as the breaker box.
“I opened the door and saw the flames,” said Bonner. “There was about a foot-long strip of fire up the wall, up close to the ceiling. I pulled all the clothes out because I didn’t want those to accelerate the fire. I used a fire extinguisher on it, but it didn’t do any good. We called the Fire Department and they came to put it out. We thought it was out.”
Rattled by the experience, the couple decided to spend the night in their vehicles.
“She slept in her car and I slept in my truck,” said Bonner. “About 5 a.m. the next morning, she went inside to use the bathroom. She saw a glow coming from the back bedroom. She woke me up and we called the Fire Department again. They came back and put it out.”
While the first fire caused minimal damage to the closet in one bedroom, the second fire was not so forgiving in a back bedroom.
McMinnville Fire Chief Kendal Mayfield says smoldering, a low-temperature, flameless form of combustion, could have been the cause of the second fire in a different room.
“Both fires could have happened at the same time,” he said. “The second fire could have sat there and smoldered. Sometimes it can be hours later before there are any flames.”
The house could have been a complete loss if not for Mrs. Bonner’s unexpected trip back into the house.
“If she hadn’t gone back in the house, it probably would have been destroyed before anyone saw anything from the outside,” said Mayfield.
Estimates on the damage are unknown.