By Bobbie Poynter
When the Barbourville Fire Department arrived on the scene of a house fire on Hwy 459 about three miles outside of town Saturday, the whole right half of the building was already engulfed in flames. With two pumpers, a tank and a rescue truck, Fire Chief Doug Dozier said it took firefighters over an hour to bring the flames down enough for the firefighters to get into the building and focus on the hot spots.
The homeowners, Liz and Cecil Matlock, had just made their final 20-year mortgage payment in November. The couple has spent the last month trying to acquire new insurance on their home even as they continued renovations.
“We’ve been trying to get insurance ever since the house was paid off, but it’s really hard to get insurance on a trailer,” said Liz Matlock.
The Matlocks say they had just hooked up and turned on a new Mr. Heater Portable Buddy propane space heater in their soon-to-be utility room and believe that’s what caused the fire.
“I was on my way out to go to work and Cecil was getting ready to go to the store when I heard a pop,” said Liz Matlock. “Then I smelled the smoke and seconds later saw flames coming from that side of the house. I hollered at Cecil and we both ran outside.”
The couple is grateful their three grandchildren had only left the house barely a half hour before the fire broke out. The children had been staying overnight with their grandparents as they often did.
Cecil Matlock stayed and watched the fire department put the fire out as his wife was taken next door to a neighbor’s house where she was checked over by Knox EMS. There, she was met and consoled by family members, who all live close by.
I’m just glad the grandkids weren’t here to see this or even be here when it happened,” said Liz Matlock, who sat explaining what happened to her two sisters-in-law, Brenda Cox and Yvonne Bowles. “We’re lucky. We have a big family. We’re all close, and we’ll all get through this together.”
The Matlocks refuse to let this setback ruin their Christmas. Although the family’s presents were destroyed in the fire, Cecil Matlock said they still plan to have a wonderful Christmas.
“No doubt about it,” he said. “We’ll have Christmas one way or another. I’m not worried. There ain’t nothing we can’t replace.”
As to the loss of his home, he said, “We’re not homeless. We can stay with family, or more than likely, we’ll just move into the house up there on the hill we’ve been keeping up and start rebuilding.”