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FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2007

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Daily photo by Deangelo McDaniel
Decatur Fire and Rescue driver/engineer Troy Pittman could only watch as fire destroyed his home Thursday.

Blaze destroys firefighter’s home
Decatur fireman just 3 shifts from retirement; lived in Punkin Center

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

PUNKIN CENTER — With oxygen tanks and fire turnouts scattered across his front yard, Troy Pittman knelt between a co-worker and his son.

The scene was familiar to him because he is veteran driver/engineer with Decatur Fire and Rescue at Station 8.

What was unfamiliar to Pittman was watching his own home burn.

“It’s just like somebody has punched me in the gut,” he said. “I’ve had to sit here and watch my baby burn.”

Just three shifts from retirement at the end of the month, Pittman stood with his wife and children as fire destroyed their home on Brown Road.

“This was a cracker box when I bought it,” he said. “I’ve added on several times, and this was home for me and my family. I’m just thankful no one was hurt.”

Punkin Center firefighters were on the scene about 11 minutes after they received the call at 8:57 a.m. Thursday.

Neel volunteer firefighter Gary Vest waters down the attic of Troy Pittman’s home on Brown Road.
Neel volunteer firefighter Gary Vest waters down the attic of Troy Pittman’s home on Brown Road.
They arrived to see what one firefighter called “shooting flames” out the roof. By 10 a.m., firefighters had the blaze controlled, but the structure and a tree near the home smoldered.

Pittman, who was off duty, was away from home when dispatch called to tell him his home was on fire.

Emotional and distraught,

Pittman’s wife, Bonita, said: “A fireman’s house is not supposed to burn. My granddaughter is going to be disappointed.”

Trying to comfort his wife, Pittman said: “We can replace the house.”

“I raised my children and grandchildren here,” she responded. “It’s just my memories. I don’t care about anything else.”

Firefighters at the scene said they managed to get some family photographs out of the house. The cause of the blaze was not immediately known, but items inside the house were burned or water soaked. Firefighters said the house will probably be a total loss.

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With children Terra and Bradley at her side, Bonita Pittman, right, couldn’t control her emotions as fire destroyed the family home on Brown Road.
Steve Barnett and Richard Taylor work with Pittman. They pledged to help the family rebuild their home.

“He taught me how to fight fires, and I have been with him my entire career,” said Barnett, a firefighter for 19 years. “I hate this for Troy. He’s such a good man, and he has worked so hard to get what he has here.”

Taylor said there are three or four carpenters in Decatur Fire and Rescue who construct houses.

“We will all pitch in to make sure this is built back,” he said. “We take care of our own. Troy is liked throughout the department, and I can assure you there will be no shortage of volunteers.”

No one was home when the fire started. The Pittmans said they would probably stay Thursday night with family and friends.

Barnett and Taylor said they will be accepting donations at any Decatur fire station to help the family.

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