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House burns to ground; downed power line suspected

By BY JENNIFER PREYSS - JLPREYSS@VICAD.COM
Sept. 4, 2011 at 4:04 a.m.

Flames burn the last of the kitchen of a house in the 1900 block of Guadalupe road Sunday afternoon. The fire started when a power line fell and sparked the garage on fire. The fire then spread to the home, burning it down to the foundation.

Sisters Joyce Benson and Linda Johnston shared more than 60 years of memories in their three-bedroom family home on Guadalupe Road.

Johnston still remembers her father planting a small shrub in the rear of their home about 40 years ago, watching it grow into a healthy shade tree.

"Daddy took out his pocket knife and cut a hole in the ground and stomped that little tree in the ground, and that's what it turned into," Johnson said, pointing up at the tall tree. "There was a swing hanging on it at some point, too."

On Sunday, the sisters' childhood home and detached garage caught fire about 12:30 p.m. The pair stood in the yard and watched their family memories burn to the ground.

"It's just unbelievable how fast a fire can consume something," Johnston said. "If the winds hadn't been so strong, this never would have happened."

The home, at 1916 Guadalupe Road in Victoria, was passed down from Johnston and Benson's late mother to Benson's children, Jack T. Baker and Jill Nicole Nix. No one had been living in the house since December.

"My nephew was out here today to start moving furniture out of the home. He was going to redo the floors and get it ready to put it on the market," Johnston said. "He said he noticed something smoking, and the whole house just started going up in flames."

Victoria, DaCosta and Bloomington fire departments responded to the emergency call and were able to contain the fire about 3 p.m. By then, the home burned to its foundation, destroying everything inside.

"I live down the road, and I could see it on fire from my house. I looked out my window and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, it was bad.' I ran over here as quick as I could," Johnston said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Capt. Mike Baecker of the Victoria Fire Department said the home may have caught fire after heavy north winds downed an electrical wire and sparked the rear garage and grass on fire.

"At least no one was injured," Johnston said.

A field to the right of the property was also destroyed in the blaze.

Guadalupe Elementary School, which sits next door to the home, was not damaged in the fire.

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