November 17, 2002 at 8:02 PM CST - Updated June 15 at 11:35 PM
Sunday morning came with a rude awakening for a family in Fruitland, when a fire that started in a bedroom quickly engulfed their home. But the quick thinking of two young boys helped the family to get out safely, and now the kindness of neighbors is helping them to get through. On Sunday afternoon, neighbors comforted the daughter of fire victims Bob and Terry King with hugs and reassuring words. The distraught woman had driven all the way to Fruitland from St. Louis when she learned her parents' home was on fire. Five members of the family were inside the trailer on Red Oak Drive when the blaze broke out: Bob and Terry King, their daughter Michelle Newsom, and her two kids, 4-year old Taylor and 12-year old Tyler. Tyler’s friend, 11-year old Joseph Benavente, had spent the night. Around nine a.m. on Sunday, Joseph and Tyler say they first noticed the fire in a back bedroom. “You could stand at the end of the hallway, and you could see the whole room was lit up in orange, like in flames,” describes Joseph. “I was really scared. All I thought about was getting my sister and getting the fire out,” says Tyler. “I went and got the water hose, but it was frozen.” When the boys couldn't put the fire out, they got Tyler’s family out of the home safely. Then they ran to neighbor Brad James for help. He immediately grabbed a fire extinguisher. “I got halfway to the back bedroom and saw the bed up in flames,” he tells Heartland News. “I pulled the fire extinguisher trigger. But nothing would happen. And the hose going through the hallway was frozen. There was nothing I could do, so I had to get out.” The King family and their neighbors watched as Fruitland firefighters battled the blaze, trying to save what they could. Fire Chief Shane Johnston believes the blaze was caused by an electrical problem in that back bedroom. Joseph's mom, Kim Avalos, says she's just glad the boys weren't still in that room, asleep. “I rushed over here and I was scared that either my son or somebody in the house was hurt. I praise the Lord that nobody was hurt. Thank God!” But there’s not much left of the King family's gutted trailer. It's a total loss. And most of the family's possessions now sit in charred piles on the front lawn. “All their belongings are just burnt,” James shakes his head. “Burnt to a crisp, or just filled with smoke. I don't know what they're going to do.” James says many of the neighbors plan to pitch in to help the family as much as they can. The thought of the loss, especially at the onset of the holiday season, had Kim Avalos in tears. “These are good people. But this family's really hurting. They're going to need help. They're going to need food. They're going to need clothes. They have nothing left.” The King family is also getting help from the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross. If you would like to help, the First Pentecostal Church of Cape Girardeau is also accepting donations on their behalf.