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Man praises fire crews, some valuables saved others lost

On Saturday, February 27 Paul Johnston of 1415 Yeakel Road in Reynolds Station decided to work on a fence near his garage and needed to work on a chain.

“I went into the garage and was using a grinder to cut a piece of chain, and it was throwing a lot of sparks,” Johnston said.

Before Johnston left the building he looked it over to make sure the sparks did not start a fire, and went out of the building. Johnston said he planned to check on the building 10 minutes after he went out, but he forgot. Twenty minutes later he remembered about checking the garage, and went out to check it over.

“It was too late then,” Johnston said. “Smoke was rolling out of the front, back and everywhere.”

Johnston said he attempted to enter his garage to save the valuables and antiques stored in the building, but the heavy smoke drove him back. He grabbed his phone and called emergency dispatch, and fire units from South Hancock Volunteer Fire Department and Dukes Volunteer Fire Department responded to the emergency call.

The units arrived on scene quickly and started to combat the blaze, Johnston said. Two firefighters quickly donned their emergency gear and darted into the building to tackle the blaze. Heavy smoke continued to pour out of the building, making visibility difficult.

“I could not even see them,” Johnston said. “They stayed in there and I was starting to get worried about them.”

Johnston buys and stores antiques and other valuables in the garage to sell at yard and garage sales. He also stored a lot of his late wife’s items in the building. He stored most, but not all, of his valuables in the front of the garage. Johnston said he expected his valuables to suffer extensive smoke and water damage. His fears proved quite wrong.

“They did a great job,” Johnston said. “It seems like they sprayed exactly where they had to.”

He said the valuables stored at the front of the garage did not suffer water damage; items stored in the back of the garage, including his late wife’s items, did suffer damage.

“I say I lost about 40-percent (of the building’s contents),” Johnston said. “If it were not for them I would have lost 100-percent.”

Johnston said all the firemen on scene were extremely helpful, and all of them acted with extreme professionalism and skill.

“They did a wonderful job,” he said. “I figured I was going to lose everything. I had some valuable pictures and a nice old painting I put in there about a week ago for storage, but it was not damaged at all.”

Johnston said he talked to one of the firefighters on scene, and thanked him for their quick arrival on scene, and their professionalism. Johnston said the firefighter told him something interesting at that point.

“He told me I really hit it lucky because they were all at the fire station when the call came in,” Johnston said.

He does regret losing his late wife’s items, but blames himself for losing them. Johnston said he did something he should not have done.

“Like I said, it was my fault,” he said. “I knew better than to use a grinder in the garage in the first place.”

By Ralph Dickerson

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