Community coming together for family devastated by house fire
by Michelle Babcock
November 20, 2013 12:11 AM | 3206 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services personnel arrived at a fire on Fincher Road in Waleska to find 75 percent of a house already engulfed in flames Saturday morning, Cherokee Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Tim Cavender said.
<br>Special to the Tribune
Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services personnel arrived at a fire on Fincher Road in Waleska to find 75 percent of a house already engulfed in flames Saturday morning, Cherokee Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Tim Cavender said.
Special to the Tribune
WALESKA — Residents in Cherokee County’s least populated city are working together to help a Waleska family recover after a house fire left a local grandmother with first-, second- and third-degree burns on 70 percent of her body.

Christine Phyfe, a 66-year-old Waleska woman, is in an induced coma at the Grady Burn Center in Atlanta, after the house she and her husband rented on Fincher Road caught fire early Saturday morning, family members said.

No one else was injured in the blaze. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Phyfe’s husband, Jody, 69, and three young grandchildren ages 11, 8 and 2, were at the house when the fire started at about

7:15 a.m., and they all escaped unharmed, one of her daughters, Linda Miller, said.

“She was pretty badly burned; she’s in stable condition at the ICU Burn Center at Grady,” Miller said. “They did a skin graft on her shoulders, across her back, a couple of spots on her hands and the sides of her feet.”

Community members are coming together to help the family who lost nearly everything but each other in the fire.

Waleska Mayor Doris Jones lives on the opposite side of Fincher Road from where the Phyfes home was located, and said she heard the sirens and knew “this was something bad.”

Jones said local churches are collecting money and clothing for the family. Donations can also be brought to the Waleska City Hall and a donation fund was set up for the family at Wells Fargo on Tuesday.

Jones said the Phyfe family was renting the house from Pud Puckett.

“Houses can be rebuilt, furniture can be rebought, but we’re more concerned about her and how she’s doing than all this mess,” Puckett said.

Puckett said the house was her family home where she grew up after her parents moved there in 1943. Puckett, whose late husband, Floyd Puckett, helped start the local volunteer fire department and was on the Waleska City Council at the time of his death last year, said that the home was a total loss.

Puckett’s son, Darryl, was a firefighter for 30 years until his retirement a few years ago, she said. The house is across the street from where Puckett lives today.

According to the Tribune’s news partners at Atlanta Fox 5 TV, Darryl Puckett was a friend of the Phyfes and said the farmhouse was more than 100 years old.

On Saturday, Phyfe awoke and realized the house was on fire, Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Tim Cavender said.

“The woman told firefighters that she woke up feeling hot and realized the home was on fire,” he said.

Miller said her mother got the grandchildren out of the house, but was unable to save her two dogs, both Chihuahuas.

“My dad was awake, they were yelling back and forth because they were at different ends of the house, and they were just yelling to get out,” Miller said. “She grabbed the kids because she was at the end of the house where the kids were asleep. She got them out, and he went out the back door. He just had hip replacement surgery two weeks ago. The bad thing is, he left without his walker or anything.”

Miller said her father, nephews and niece are safe and now staying with family.

Cavender said when emergency personnel arrived, 75 percent of the house was already in flames.

“The home was totally destroyed by the fire,” Cavender added.

Fire investigators have made several visits to the site and are still investigating the cause of the fire, Cavender said.

The three local churches collecting donations for the family are Waleska First Baptist Church, Waleska United Methodist Church and Heritage Baptist Church.

To make a contribution to the Phyfe Family Donation Fund, Miller said donations can be made at Wells Fargo using the account number 2554849204.

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