Blaze claims historic home

Published 8:15 pm Thursday, January 28, 2010

After a long, sleepless night in which all ofher worldly possessions disappeared in a brilliant orange flash,Wesson’s Michelle Brooks greeted Thursday morning preaching a newlife lesson.

“Never gripe,” she said. “It could all go in aminute.”

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Brooks, 47, counted herself among the blessedThursday morning after being rescued unharmed from within herburning home on Beech Street, moments before a fire that could beseen for miles and covered the town in smoke until dawn. Shedoesn’t know what started the fire, but flames from the134-year-old home rose into the sky within minutes.

At approximately 7 p.m., Brooks said she hadsettled into a tub of hot water when she began hearing knockingsounds. She got out of the bath to answer what she thought was aknock at the door when the lights went out and the room turnedblack. There was yelling outside.

“There was smoke, and I saw orange under thebedroom door,” Brooks said. “I realized, ‘Oh my God, it’s a fire,’and I grabbed my medicine and ran.”

Ronnie Beddington, Brooks’ 23-year-oldneighbor across Highway 51, met her at the window, pulled her outof the house and carried her to safety across the yard. The firewas about to perform its grand finale.

“I turned around and looked, and it wasn’t alot of fire. After that, it was gone,” Brooks said.

Wesson Volunteer Fire Department Chief DustinBrewer said both Wesson and Strong Hope Volunteer Fire Departmentsfought the fire for five hours Wednesday night, from around 7 p.m.until midnight.

“It was just such a big house, and that fatlighter pine just burns and burns and burns,” Brewer said.

Space heaters were running inside the house,but apparently not in the room where the fire began. Aninvestigator will likely inspect the charred hull of the house todetermine the fire’s cause, Brewer said.

“With an old house like that, we just alwaysassume electrical to begin with,” he said.

Thomas Brooks, Michelle Brooks’ husband, isworking in Illinois this week. The fire was the latest in a recentseries of highs and lows for the couple.

Last Saturday, he buried his father, Willie”Bill” Brooks.

On Tuesday, he and Michelle celebrated their30th wedding anniversary.

Thomas Brooks spent Wednesday night on thephone his wife, trying to calm her down, and awoke Thursday morningto his 56th birthday.

“This has been a week, let me just say,”Michelle said.