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Fire guts Blountstown home early Saturday morning

by Teresa Eubanks, Journal Editor

After noticing the beep of a dying battery in a smoke detector early last week, Donna Dawsey, 46, said she replaced it and put up three new alarms in the wood-frame home she shares with her son, Dean Dawson, 27,  and her three-year-old granddaughter, Sophia.

A few days later, she said her son came home tired after work.  He went to bed early that Friday night after “he insisted that I go see my girlfriend and relax,” Donna said. After Sophie was tucked in, she left.

Around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, she was two blocks away, having a glass of wine with a friend when they heard a loud boom.

A short time later she learned that the home where her son and granddaughter were sleeping was on fire.

Her cousin, Renee Hires Moore, contacted Donna about the fire around 1 a.m.  Billy and Pat Hires had called to tell their daughter after the explosion next door shook their house.

Donna ran home and saw her son sitting in front of the house.

“His eyes and feet were burned and he had black smoke all over him,” she said.  Sophie was nearby, unharmed.  Dean had gotten the little girl out and then went back inside to look for his mother, unaware that she had not returned home.

“When he came back out the second time, Dean collapsed and hit his head on the concrete,” Renee said. His cousin, Blake Hires, who is an EMT, lives nearby and was one of the first at the scene. Blake took Dean and Sophie to his house.  Renee said his feet were badly burned after he went into the home a second time, barefoot, while “the whole back end was fully engulfed.”


Firefighters responding to the 12:30 a.m. call on Folsom Avenue pulled up to see the back of the structure fully engulfed. While they were able to knock down the blaze fairly quickly, the home - which was built in 1934, according to the Calhoun County Property Appraiser’s Office - was constructed with heart pine which made it “particularly stubborn to fully extinguish,” according to Blountstown Fire Chief Ben Hall.

They remained on scene until nearly 5:30 a.m. and were assisted by West Side Fire Department.

The fire began in the back of the home in what Donna calls her “woman cave.”  That’s where she has a workbench and stores supplies for various projects, including paint, fabric and old newspapers.  She believes the fire started in a cubbyhole that held some cloth, papers and some purses.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the blaze.  The fire marshal has “preliminarily ruled the fire accidental,” according to Hall, who said the fire did not appear suspicious. He felt it possible an electrical issue in the back of the house could have led to the fire.

Donna credits her family’s escape to the new smoke detectors. “That’s what saved my granddaughter and son,” she said.


The fire gutted the house and destroyed its contents.  With the exception of a couple of boxes of things she was able to retrieve, “we lost everything,” Donna said.

But she was heartened to discover one treasure while she was digging through the rubble - a cup that had belonged to her grandmother, Verna Holley.  “She was very prim and proper… always had her lipstick on,” she said.  A year ago while rummaging through some old things, she said she found the cup.  “I started to put it in the sink and then something caught my eye,” she said.  Her grandmother’s lipstick print was still on the cup. Instead of washing it, she put it in her china cabinet.

A few days ago, looking through what was left of her home, “I found the cup,” she said.  The lipstick print was intact although other parts of the cup were burned or charred.

“I’ve had friends come cry with me and dig through the rubble with me,” she said.  “Even though my life is torn apart right now, I feel like the most blessed person on earth.”


The family has received a lot of clothing donations already, but if you have something to share with them, their sizes are:

Donna: Pants 5-7 and medium shirts

Dean: Pants 34-34 and  large shirts

Sophia: 2T-3T clothes and 6/7, 7/8 shoes.

They are in need household supplies.

Donations may be left at the home of June Uhrick at 16429 NW John F. Bailey Road in Blountstown or Billy Hires at 20522 NW Folsom Avenue in Blountstown.

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September 29th, 2017



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