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4th of July fire ravages Sebek home

Amidst the rubble, the charred remains of two vehicles can be seen parked where a three-car attached garage once stood on Sebek Blvd. in Oxford Township. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
July 07, 2010 - A summer day marked by celebrations ended in tragedy for Oxford homeowner Charlie Owings, whose residence on Sebek Blvd. was ravaged by flames on the Fourth of July.

"I'm devastated. I lost everything," she said. "It just gets worse everyday because I keep realizing all the stuff that's gone."

Oxford firefighters were called to the 1,800-square-foot, one-story home, located at the corner of Sebek and Fernlock, at 10:28 p.m. Sunday. The first engine arrived on scene less than two minutes later.

It appears the fire began in the three-car attached garage, which burned to the ground. The charred remains of the two vehicles parked inside were clearly visible.

"The garage was completely engulfed," Owings said.

From the garage, the fire spread into the home's attic.

Firefighters were able to contain the flames to the attic area, however, the main floor sustained extensive smoke and water damage, plus all the necessary damage done by firefighters during the performance of their duty.

"They let me walk through it today," said Owings, who had lived in the home for 18 years. "The whole house is totalled. They knocked out all of the ceiling. They put holes in the walls. All the furniture is completely destroyed."

It doesn't appear her home can be saved.

"They said that the house was a total loss and there was really nothing I could salvage," said Owings, who works part-time as a waitress/bartender at the Oxford Hills Golf and Country Club. "From my understanding, they're going to level the house. They said it's not salvageable."

The cause of blaze is still under investigation, according to Oxford Fire Capt. Kurt Fechter, who served as the incident commander at the scene.

Owings said she was told the cause "was possibly electrical."

The five people who were inside the house at the time of the fire all escaped with no injuries. Mike and Holly Graves, some friends of Owings who happened to be driving by, spotted the garage fire and knocked on the home's doors and windows to alert the occupants to the situation.

Because there are no fire hydrants on that street, water had to be shuttled to the scene via tanker trucks. Oxford used its two tankers, plus tankers from Addison, Independence, Brandon and Orion.

Fechter noted the fire department had trouble getting water to the scene due to the high number of vehicles parked along the street, a result of the holiday and people who simply came to watch the fire.

"We had quite a bottleneck of cars that were not allowing our tankers and engines to get to where they needed to go," Fechter said. "We did run out of water waiting for some tankers to come in."

However, once the sheriff's deputies and fire officers were "able to clear a path, we never had an issue with water again."

"We estimated there was about 200 people standing there watching," Fechter noted. "It was amazing how many people were on scene. It felt like they bused them in . . . If this had been in October, I don't think you would have seen this problem, but because it was a holiday weekend, we had quite a bit of people there."

The fire was officially deemed under control at 12:36 a.m. Monday. The last fire unit left the scene at 4:03 a.m.

Right now, Owings is weighing her future housing options. If she decides to have a new home built, it could take anywhere from six months to a year. She doesn't know if she wants to be displaced for that long.

"I don't know how I feel about that, so I have to talk to (the insurance company) and see what's going to be the best option for me," she said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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