Fire deals emotional blow to father, son

Thomas Garcia

John Lavender and his son Joe sifted through the ashes of John’s childhood home, which was destroyed in Saturday’s fire.

“The house was built in 1939,” John Lavender said. “The fire destroyed everything.”

John and Joe were at the burnt home Tuesday with an insurance agent reviewing the damage.

“Fire is a strange thing,” Joe said. “It destroyed the house, but didn’t touch the garage with my grandmother’s old car twenty feet away.”

The house had been vacant since John’s mother, Margaret, passed away in 2005.

Following her passing, John said he told his son to lock up the house and leave everything as it was.

“I told Joe ‘Leave it exactly the way she left it,’” John said. “Now I wish we would have never done that.”

Joe said the closets still had his grandmother’s clothes hanging in them. He said the pictures of family and her bedroom along with her belongings had been untouched.

“The sentimental loss is immeasurable,” said Joe.

Joe lives a few miles from his grandmother’s house on State Highway 268. He said he is the deputy fire chief of the Forrest Fire Department, the first of 22 departments to respond to the fire.

“We had a truck out at my house trying to keep the fire from taking it,” Joe said. “Once the fire was out, we moved to my grandmother’s house.”

Joe said by the time they got to the house, it and a workshop were fully engulfed in flames.

“There was little that could be done at that point,” Joe said.

Joe said the crew extinguished the fire surrounding the house. He said he had little time for remorse over the loss of the home.

“Once the fire was out, we had to move to the next area,” Joe said. “There was no time to think about what was lost. We had to work to save what we could.”

Joe said once the fires were out, he and his dad went to the house to survey the damage.

“In the workshop, there was a 1952 Studebaker pickup which belonged to my grandfather,” Joe said. “My son had been bugging me for that truck for years. He is not going to be pleased about this.”

Joe said his dad had moved the cattle from the pasture they were grazing in, saving them from the fire.

“We are out of the cattle business,” Joe said. “All of our grazing pastures burned.”

Joe said the loss of the grazing land means he will have to sell the 32 head of cattle.

“It will be at least two to three years before grass begins to grow on that land, provided we get some rain,” Joe said. “I cannot afford to feed cattle hay and feed for the next three years.”

Joe said while the cause of the fire is still unknown, the effects of the fire can be seen all across the countryside.