Family Avoids Christmas Blaze

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A late night blaze threatened to ruin the Venable family Christmas. But an observant daughter-in-law saved the day.

As 16 members of the family gathered in John and Linda Venable's Strawberry cabin on Ralls Dr. on Christmas Day, a wood pellet stove warmed the cozy atmosphere from the basement. But wood scraps from the newly remodeled deck piled against the exterior basement wall, blocked the vent, family members said.

It was about 9:30 p.m. when their son, Glen and his wife, Kelly, decided to leave the family's party.

The foresight that followed was really amazing, family members related.

The front door was stuck, and as Kelly pulled and pulled trying to open the front door she said, "I can't believe this, if there was a fire we couldn't get out."

But they did get out the door, and from the second-story deck above the garage, Kelly saw smoke -- way too much smoke.

She screamed "fire!" and the family jumped into action. Presents flew as a mass exodus began. Some threw snow on the flaming wood scraps, now licking the newly oiled deck. Others began a bucket brigade, trudging five-gallon buckets of water across an icy path. A neighbor brought a fire extinguisher. As quick as they were, the Pine-Strawberry firefighters got there just in time to see it go out.

"We love it when we hear it's out," Chief Paul Coe said.

Averting a certain disaster, this family is lucky, Coe said.

If the deck had ignited, the fire would have spread very quickly. But because of Kelly's awareness and the family's quick action, the damage was contained to a few scraps of lumber and a blackened basement wall. It was a very merry Christmas after that.

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