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'Smoke detector woke us up' (video)

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
April 2, 2013 at 6:05 p.m.
Updated April 2, 2013 at 11:03 p.m.


Justin Machicek grappled with his housemate, trying to keep her from going back into their burning home early Tuesday morning.

"The smoke detector woke us up," Machicek said. "I opened the door and noticed the back bedroom engulfed in flames. I put it out the best I could, but it kept getting bigger. I was scared.

"I tried to save another person who kept going back in the fire. I pulled her out, and I collapsed outside."

Machicek, 32, and his girlfriend, Linda Knighten, 42, were treated and released from DeTar Hospital Navarro for smoke inhalation.

Their housemate, who is the homeowner's girlfriend, was uninjured. They lived in the house with the home's owner and his girlfriend.

Knighten, too, was frightened as she made sure the four dogs and cat in the house made it out safely.

"I was scared. I got the dogs out and put them in the car and rolled the windows down for them," she said. "I could see Justin keeping her (the housemate) from going back in the house. I'm upset."

The Victoria Fire Department responded to the fire call at 506 Arabian Drive about 1:40 a.m.

"When we arrived, heavy fire and smoke was coming from the rear of the house," said VFD Battalion Chief Roger Hempel. "The fire was extinguished in about 15 minutes."

The cause of the fire is under investigation, said Fire Marshal Tom Legler.

Machicek and Knighten, who rented a room in the house, lost all their personal belongings in the fire and had no renter's insurance. The homeowner, Steve Wilkins, has insurance, Machicek said.

It was unclear where Wilkins and his girlfriend were going to live Tuesday night, but they do have a place to stay, Knighten said.

"Invest in smoke detectors. They do work. If it wasn't for that, we'd be worse off than we are today," Machicek said.

"I'm hurt. I can't explain it. You have something, and you lost it all," Machicek said, unsuccessfully fighting back tears. "Say a prayer for us."

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