The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Blessings counted after fire

Grandma proud of child who rescued sibling.

 

CLOVIS — A burning bed, a boy's heroics and bad case of déjà vu: it all happened fast when a blaze erupted last week at the Clovis Apartments.

For the families closest to the fire that displaced an entire 12-unit building Monday, some silver linings have emerged from the black smoke and broken windows.

The first positive is that none of the 46 people directly affected reported any serious injuries; the only minor injury came to a 10-year-old boy who inhaled smoke while retrieving his little brother from the small inferno.

The boy, Zyeir Williams, said Friday he is feeling fine.

"I saw just everybody moving out, then I saw my grandson go back," Franzes Williams said. "I'm proud of him. He didn't think about himself, he thought about his family."

The intrepid youngster told The News he was scared at the time, but otherwise didn't think too much of walking back through the smoke to usher his 6-year-old brother out of their apartment, directly across the hall from the ground-floor unit where the fire broke out.

The next positive is the fast and thorough response from the public; firefighters knocked down the flames within 10 minutes of the call that afternoon, and support agencies came in that evening to provide temporary lodging, food and clothing while raising thousands of dollars in the days ensuing.

Residents of eight units were able to return home by week's end, with a mobile laundry rig from New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief nearby to clean linens affected by the smoke, said the executive director for United Way of Eastern New Mexico. Erinn Burch went on to say that those from the more severely damaged units had been assisted into new places or were staying with family, and that they would continue receiving support for as long as the resources last.

Not everything can be made whole again, but most of the material needs for those affected have been well supplied so far.

"I've been telling a lot of people, I'm not even worried about that," said Kymberly Bauer, whose apartment firefighters declared a total loss when they traced the incident to a cat overturning a candle in her bedroom. "I know it, I'm just going to be blessed. They can't give me the pictures of my dead mother back, they can't give me my cat back, but those are the only two things."

Bauer said she was in her kitchen and her 9-year old son Jeremiah across the hallway when she heard the smoke alarm and felt the heat from the next room.

Her bed was on fire. She tried to put it out, first with her fire extinguisher and then with her neighbor's. It didn't take.

"The only thing on fire was the bed. That burning bed," she said. "At first I was like, 'I got this,'... but it was too much, so I just got Jeremiah and I left."

She said Jeremiah "seems to be OK, thank goodness," but in their cat Joey he lost not only a pet but a therapy animal in the fire.

"He has autism," she explained. "It was so weird, because there was a connection, you could see it. Jeremiah could just pick (Joey) up and treat him like a baby doll."

Bauer is less concerned with the property she lost in the fire; last week wasn't the first time her home went up in flames, but years ago it at least wasn't her unit where the fire started.

"I was involved in the (Clovis Apartments) fire in 2012, how poignant," she said. "I shouldn't have two of these in my lifetime."

Her older son recalled that incident too, when he came home from school Monday afternoon and saw flames shooting out of his mother's bedroom window.

"He ran up and said 'Oh my god, mom, again,' but once he found out we were alive I guess he was just worried about his Xbox," Bauer said.

In fact, the gaming console survived the fire, as did a television and other items inside her son's bedroom.

"You know how teenagers are — he wants his room shut, he wants his door closed. His stuff didn't get burnt up," she said. "That does make me happy. I know it's material, but for a 13-year-old your Xbox is your life."

Burch said Friday that UWENM had over $5,200 available for those affected by the fire, with other fundraisers (including a car wash this afternoon at Prince and 21st streets) expected to bring in more during the coming days.

"That's what I'm leaning on. Clovis is very generous. Strangers are very generous in times of tragedy. That's my testimony, and it was my testimony in 2012," Bauer said.

She also noted a new insight from last week's events, namely to not leave a scented candle burning without direct supervision, where a cat or maybe even the wind might interfere.

"Don't light it unless you're there. I bet you I never ever never ever will again. Lesson learned," she said.

 

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