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WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24, 2007
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Alisa Payne, 4, leans against her mother, Stacy Payne, after her grandparents’ house was consumed by fire early Tuesday.
Daily photos by Emily Saunders
Alisa Payne, 4, leans against her mother, Stacy Payne, after her grandparents’ house was consumed by fire early Tuesday.

Mud Tavern man saves wife from fire that destroyed home

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com· 340-2438

MUD TAVERN — Awakened early Tuesday by a popping sound, Roger Payne said he alerted his son upstairs and dragged his wife from a fire that destroyed their doublewide mobile home.

The residence is at 88 Guyer Brown Private Drive off Neel School Road, southwest of Decatur.

They stood with other family members and friends in front of the smoldering embers, thankful they were alive but mourning the loss of two of their three Pekinese.

“I tried to get Clohie before I was overcome by smoke,” said JoAnne Payne. “Fred didn’t make it either. But Bandit escaped, and we found him in the woods.”

Larry Ennis, a captain with Mud Tavern Fire and Rescue, said the alarm call came at 4:13 a.m.

“When we arrived, the house and garage were fully involved,” Ennis said.

He said units from Decatur Fire and Rescue and the Punkin Center, Neel, Oak Ridge and Flint volunteer fire departments also responded. He said 20 to 25 firefighters fought the blaze.

“The water supply was low. There are no hydrants,” said Ennis. “We had to shuttle water into the area. We used about 26,000 gallons.”

Diane Barnette offers support to JoAnne Payne, who woke up to a house full of smoke. The house went up in flames about 4 a.m. Between 20 and 25 firefighters came to help contain the blaze.
Diane Barnette offers support to JoAnne Payne, who woke up to a house full of smoke. The house went up in flames about 4 a.m. Between 20 and 25 firefighters came to help contain the blaze.
Payne, 53, a 2004 candidate for the Decatur City Council and frequent council critic in the previous administration, said he was asleep in a chair in the living room of the 3,600-square-foot residence, which had a two-story addition and an attached garage. “Something popping woke me up, and from the smell of smoke, I knew the house was on fire,” he said.

JoAnne Payne, 56, said she jumped up from bed, put on her glasses and “Roger was hollering up to Tracy.” Tracy Payne, 37, said he couldn’t get out through the living room or the kitchen and raced out through the garage.

With tears in her eyes, JoAnne Payne said that at one point she saw Clohie, and “I tried to get to her. But I started choking from the smoke and passed out.”

Roger Payne said he crept low along the floor and told his wife to hurry.

“I saw fire coming through the bathroom in the master bedroom,” he said. “I grabbed my boots and went outside, thinking she was with me. But when I turned around, she wasn’t there.”

Still barefooted, he went back in and noticed that the smoke was drifting halfway down to the floor from the ceiling.

“JoAnne was lying on the floor on her side between the bedroom and living room. I grabbed her housecoat around her shoulders and began pulling her outside,” he said, rubbing a hand through his singed hair. “I could feel fire coming over the top of me. Then I heard a big boom.”

The Paynes’ youngest son, Daryl, and his wife, Stacy, live in a mobile home next door with their family, which includes two daughters and Stacy Payne’s son, Tyler Whitt, 17.

“We were all asleep, and I heard someone knocking on our door,” Whitt said. “Tracy told me to call 911, that their house was on fire. But Mom was already on the phone. I ran, put some clothes on and ran over.”

Whitt drove Tracy Payne to Parkway Medical Center for treatment, and Roger Payne drove his wife to Decatur General Hospital.

“She got a burn on her hand and bumps and bruises on her legs, knees and arms, I guess from dragging her out of the house. There’s a step-down in the hallway that I pulled her over,” he said.

Roger Payne said he has insurance and began making payments toward purchasing the property from Elizabeth Barber in November 2005. Ennis said Barber called for an investigation by the state fire marshal, who he said was en route.

The Paynes said they have no idea what ignited the fire. JoAnne Payne said they use gas logs to heat the home. She said they kept a kerosene heater upstairs in the middle of the hall but weren’t yet using it.

Roger Payne said he had a 5-gallon can of kerosene in the computer room near the front of the home for use upstairs.

“That might have resulted in the big boom I heard,” he said.

Payne pointed to a burned blob on the ground, which he said were his boots that he had thrown down and never put on when he went back inside to rescue his wife.

“I also dropped a bunch of medicine, five or six bottles of prescriptions that I just had filled, on top of the boots. All of that burned, too,” he said. “Some of the medication was for pain and a tooth infection. I was supposed to have the tooth extracted tomorrow. I’ll have to postpone that. I’ve got too much else to deal with now.”

Payne, who hopes to rebuild on the site, said he and his family lost everything in the fire.

“I had a signed mint-condition 1953 Mickey Mantle Topps baseball card with a certificate of authentication,” he said. “I lost that, too, and it was hard to give up. I was saving it for the grandkids, hoping that someday they might get a good deal for it.”

A seller on eBay on Tuesday is asking $1,500 for the card. Dave’s Vintage Baseball Card Web site lists the card for a book price of $3,200.

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