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Thomaston man loses home to kitchen grease fire

By JR Ortega
Nov. 7, 2011 at 5:07 a.m.

Concentrated jets of flame burst through the roof of Wayne Russell's home in Thomaston on Monday afternoon.

HOW TO HELP

Call the Victoria County Chapter of the American Red Cross at 361-573-2671.

THOMASTON - A hazy brown mass plumed from 76-year-old Wayne Russell's home - a home he put a summer's worth of sweat and tears into.

Russell sat in the bed of a pickup, one knee hugged into his chest, and hopelessly watched firefighters from DeWitt and Victoria counties try to extinguish the blaze in the 100 block of Rebecca Lane early Monday afternoon.

Russell was cooking shrimp for lunch, but the grease boiled over, instantly igniting a blaze he could not control.

"It hasn't been a good year," Russell said with a hint of sorrow.

Still, not one tear rolled down his tanned, aged skin.

Russell bought the land in March after his wife died in December.

The two were married for 41 years.

Two months before her death, he battled stage 1 lung cancer.

But this home, well, it was a new beginning - something fresh.

Next-door neighbor, Brynn Lee, watched Russell construct a carport and front and back door deck in the triple-digit heat.

Russell lived in the home by himself, so Lee always made sure to watch after him.

So when she drove onto Rebecca Lane to get to her house and saw the house up in flames, she immediately checked to see if Russell was OK.

"It's such an empty feeling," Lee said, watching the home implode as high winds guided the blaze slowly across the home's rooftop.

Lee's home was far enough from Russell's that it was safe. She could see her country-style home disappear as the smoke pushed east into Cuero and along U.S. Highway 87.

Firefighters from Cuero, Yoakum, Quail Creek and Raisin worked together to extinguish the blaze, which took about an hour, said Cuero Fire Department Chief Butch Tolbert.

Tolbert called for assistance from surrounding volunteer departments because water was low.

Much of the damage to the home happened to the upper walls and roof.

Lee and her husband have offered anything they have to help Russell out.

"He has been so dedicated in fixing the place up and he just worked so hard," she said. "It breaks my heart to see it go up, and there is not one thing you can do about it."

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