A central Pine Bluff house fire Wednesday evening left a family of eight counting their blessings that no one was injured in the blaze.
Alicia Roberts Debrow said her husband Gregory Debrow was the only family member home at 1302 Linden St. when the fire broke out at about 4:30 p.m.
"He smelled something burning and went to the back and saw something burning and got out," Alicia Debrow said, adding that he did not stay long enough to tell what was on fire or what might have started the blaze.
Alicia Debrow said that typically, their six children would have also been home at that time of day. But a couple of the boys had gone to play basketball down the street and the others had decided to go along for the ride with Alicia Debrow when she left to run an errand.
"We had just left," she said. "It just so happened that we weren't there."
Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department spokesman Lt. Harold Clark said that Fire Chief Shauwn Howell was the first to arrive on the scene. Flames were already visible and Gregory Debrow was already safely out of the home. Other firefighters began arriving on the scene.
"Shortly after that, the fire broke through the roof," Clark said.
Clark said the cause of the fire would likely not be determined by the end of the day Wednesday.
At about 4:45 p.m., large flames were still shooting from the roof of the one-story, tan-colored brick home, and a plume of heavy white-brown smoke was billowing into the sky and visible from across town. Firefighters were spraying water down onto the roof using the ladder hose on the Ladder 1 fire engine, while other firefighters stood on the ground attacking the fire with hoses from all sides.
At about 5 p.m., Clark said the fire was essentially contained. As the fire and smoke faded away, they revealed that the roof area was mostly gone. Fire was still visible inside the home through its windows, but Clark said firefighters would not be able to go inside the home because of how unstable the structure had become. They would continue to fight the blaze from the outside, and Clark expected they would be at the scene for at least an hour.
"Our main priority right now is life safety — keeping people back so they don't get injured, and protecting the exposed structure to the west," Clark said, referring to a nearby house on 13th Avenue.
The fire companies on scene were Engine 5, Ladder 1, Engine 1 and Engine 3, Clark said.
Officials with the Red Cross will be assisting the family. The Southeast Arkansas Red Cross chapter can be reached at 534-7312.