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Pastor, family lose all in Cuero house fire

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
April 30, 2010 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated April 29, 2010 at 11:30 p.m.

Assistant Chief Charles Klaevemann peers through a window of a burned home at 213 Miltenberger Road in Cuero as firefighter Clinton Morris steadies the ladder. A fire started around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday.

CUERO - LeVaughn Friar finished studying for his SATs and began reading the Bible before turning in for the night on Thursday.

But as he read the scriptures, the Cuero High School track star smelled smoke.

"He ran into my bedroom and shook me, yelling, 'Dad! Dad! The house is on fire!' Thank God his two little brothers were in bed with me," said the Rev. Verlon B. Friar II, who was asleep along with Lukas, 9, and Leighton, 4, in his upstairs bedroom.

The four ran from the house at 213 Miltenberger Road, and watched as fire ravaged the building. Friar's wife, Leah Friar, was in Florida visiting a sick parent.

"It was hard to watch, but thank God we are all OK," Friar said Friday. "I watched with mixed emotions. I was grateful we were not hurt, but also I was thinking, 'Where are we going from here?'"

Friar, the pastor at Faith Cathedral Baptist Church in Victoria, said his family lost everything.

The Cuero Fire Department received the fire call at 10:08 p.m. and battled the blaze until 3:30 a.m., said fire chief Butch Tolbert.

The Yoakum Fire Department responded with mutual aid and its ladder truck to assist fighting the fire in the two-story home.

"The garage was fully involved when we arrived," Tolbert said. "The majority of the upstairs was also gutted."

Tolbert said that probably half of the downstairs that wasn't burned had smoke and heat damage. A 2002 Jaguar in the garage was also destroyed.

Strong winds Thursday night proved challenging.

"The winds kicked up pretty good from the southeast," Tolbert said. "It definitely didn't help the situation."

Cuero firefighters returned at 7 a.m. Friday when tires on the car in the garage re-ignited, Tolbert said.

Firefighters also found some other areas that were smoldering and were on scene until 9:45 a.m., the fire chief said.

Tolbert said the fire likely started in the garage, but the origin is still under investigation.

Friar said his faith kept his family safe.

"I know the Lord was watching out for us and had us covered," he said. "The way it burned and the fact that no one was hurt, it was no one but God."

The family received a voucher from the Crossroads Chapter of the American Red Cross to stay at a local motel until Friar can make other arrangements.

"Of course it was unwelcome," Friar said of the fire, "but we don't have an exemption status. We have challenges in life, and this is one of them."



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