The Oliver family escaped a minor house fire in their attic Monday night, but they returned Tuesday to find they had lost everything.
Flames flared back up with a vengeance just before 8 a.m. and nearly destroyed the house at 3857 Gadson Drive.
“My babies keep crying,” Tikenia Oliver said of her six children who lost all but some clothes they grabbed when they fled the night before.
“They lost everything, everything. They don’t even have shoes on their feet.”
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LaTaurus Oliver was asleep on the couch when his daughter returned from praise dance practice about 10 p.m. Monday.
He woke up and noticed unusual warmth and discovered the ceiling was almost too hot to touch.
When he turned off the ceiling fan, he heard a popping noise that sounded like the attic was on fire.
He went outside to see smoke coming from the vents on both ends of the house.
“Then I knew it was on fire, and I called 911 and they came right on time,” Oliver said.
He got the children out of the house while his wife was at work at a personal care home.
An electrical wire shorted in the attic and burned two ceiling joists, but there was no major initial damage, said Sgt. Ben Gleaton, a fire investigator for the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department.
Electricity was turned off to the house, and the family sought shelter elsewhere with the help of the American Red Cross.
On Tuesday morning, Sandy Burney was driving by when she saw what she thought was steam coming from the Olivers’ roof.
She circled the block, smelled the smoke and realized the house was on fire.
Fearing people were inside, she and others made sure no one was trapped.
Tears flowed when the Olivers got the call about the second blaze, which had shot through the roof by the time firefighters returned.
“My 6-year-old year old was asleep right in the bed (under the attic blaze),” Tikenia Oliver said. “What if it fell on him? Oh, God.”
The remnants of holiday gift bags were in a pile of debris near the driveway.
Instead of focusing on what they had lost, the parents were thankful no one was hurt.
They realize if their daughter had decided to spend the night at her aunt’s, the whole sleeping family could have perished.
“We lost everything but our life. Thank you, Jesus,” LaTaurus Oliver said.
“By the grace of God everybody is safe,” echoed his wife.
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.