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Madras family flees as fast fire destroys 2 homes

By Grace Joyal
Published On: Aug 17 2013 03:34:08 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 17 2013 11:15:32 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Grace Joyal was at Tops Trailer Park in Madras after two mobile homes burned fast and a family of six barely made it out safely.

MADRAS, Ore. -

A fast-moving fire destroyed two neighboring mobile homes and damaged a third at a Madras trailer park Saturday morning, but all got out safely and no injuries were reported, initial reports indicated.

The fire was reported at 10:08 a.m. at Tops Trailer Park, at 23 NW Depot Road (west of Hwy. 26), bringing in Jefferson County Fire District No. 1 crews rushing to the scene.

But they could do little to save the two structures lost to the blaze, which some neighbors said were destroyed in less than three minutes.

Incident Commander Mark Johnson said more than 20 firefighters and four engines were called to the scene, with a tall black smoke column in view as they sped to the trailer park.

The fire that began at Zack Johnson's home destroyed a neighboring one, which was vacant, while a third was significantly damaged and a fourth had minor damage, he said.

A woman escaping the fire had first-degree burns to her arms and her baby's head had similar minor burns from their escape, Johnson said.

Shawn Parker, who does maintenance work at the trailer park, was the first to arrive.

"I got a phone call saying this trailer where we're standing was on fire, and I came over to make sure the family was out," he said later.

Fire Chief Brian Huff said the cause of the blaze was under investigation.

The American Red Cross was called in to assist the displaced families with emergency needs.

And community members were stepping up to help Johnson's family.

"The Red Cross was going to help the family out that was displaced due to the incident today with clothes and diapers, and there's been a few people that have come by to offer to put them up in a motel and stuff," Parker said. "(A) pretty caring community for something like this to happen."

Parker said Johnson "was pretty shaken up and said he was going to his family's house to figure out what to do with the kids and stuff."

Will Robbins of Warm Springs radio station KWSO, who is related to the fire victims, shared their story in this report shared with us:

Zack and Lea Johnson were finally gaining a sense of normalcy in their lives.. After being laid off from their jobs in California six months ago and with Lea entering the 2nd trimester of the couples third child, they along with Leas older brother Marc and her children decided to move to Central Oregon to be closer to her mom and to start over again..

For the past six months, Zack, Lea and Lea's older brother Marc (Snook) struggled to make ends meet, but despite tough times and being homeless, the family worked hard to get by and found a single-wide trailer to move into just a few months ago.. Both Marc and Zac work odd jobs, fixing cars for people -- sometimes with little or no compensation -- and also made a little money cutting firewood with Lea's stepfather.

All of that progress came to a halt Saturday morning when their home and another were destroyed by fire at Tops Trailer Park in Madras.

The fire broke out a little after 10 a.m. as the family was still sleeping --- and all six had less than a minute to get out before the single-wide trailer was fully engulfed.

Marc Snook told KWSO's Will Robbins, who is his uncle, that it was 4-year-old Matthew who alerted him to the fire.

"I was awoke by Matthew who was shaking me saying, 'Uncle Marc, you got to put out the fire!'"

"I got up to check and saw the back porch was engulfed," said Marc, an Army veteran who acted quickly, directing Matthew to get out of the home with his 3-year-old sister Natasha.

Meanwhile, Marc yelled to Zac to get out, and he woke up Lea, who got her 3-week-old daughter Iasbel and ran towards the exit..

But Lea hesitated to go down the hall because there were flames everywhere: "the whole hallway was on fire," she said.

Zac yelled to her "just go!" And he said she ran through the flames with her infant. Both Lea and the baby suffered some minor burns and were treated by Jefferson County EMS.

Marc had tried to keep the fire at bay by pouring water on it and using a fire extinguisher, but to no avail.

By the time Jefferson County firefighters arrived the trailer and another were fully engulfed and it was spreading to a third.

Though the family escaped with literally the clothes on their backs, what little else they did have was destroyed by the fire.

For now, the family is seeking assistance from anywhere they can get some help, Robbins said.

"Everything is needed -- clothing, food and shelter," he said.

Anyone who would like to help can call Lea's Uncle Will at 541-420-0721. The family hopes to set up a relief fund Monday and "is feeling grateful that everyone is safe," Robbins wrote.

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