Fire leaves family of 5 homeless (w/video)

Bianca Montes By Bianca Montes

Jan. 22, 2014 at 7:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 22, 2014 at 7:23 p.m.

Firefighters continue to put water on a house fire that quickly was reduced to the charred wood. The home is just a short distance from the Guadalupe River on River Road.

Firefighters continue to put water on a house fire that quickly was reduced to the charred wood. The home is just a short distance from the Guadalupe River on River Road.

Vicky Oleksy and her husband built their small wooden home by hand.

After the original structure was ruined by a flood in 1998, the Victoria couple tore down the blemished walls and built their first home.

"Now look at it," she sobbed from the side of the road. She was sitting in a pile of leaves that crunched with her movement. "There's nothing left."

Oleksy peered through the curved holes of a wire fence at the remnants of her house. All that remained was a portion of the roof and bare wood beams charred by fire.

Firefighters with the Victoria and Quail Creek fire departments responded to the blaze in the 500 block of River Road about 12:25 p.m. The first fire truck arrived about 13 minutes later, said Victoria Fire Chief Taner Drake. The home was entirely engulfed in flames by the time the truck arrived.

The fire in the rural Victoria County area left the family of five homeless. The structure shared its lot with the home Oleksy grew up in. She and her four children - ages 3, 8, 16 and 18 - lived in the back house, which Drake estimated to be about 1,000 square feet.

The fire didn't spread to the other structure on the lot and damaged about a 10-foot radius of land around the home. The Victoria County Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the fire. The cause had not been determined by Wednesday evening.

The house was a complete loss.

The American Red Cross was contacted to assist in finding temporary shelter.

Family members said they were very disappointed in the time it took for the fire department to respond, questioning if the home could've been saved.

Drake said firefighters weren't able to immediately put out the fire because of the lack of a hydrant system in the county.

"When you have a fire this big, it takes a lot of water," Drake said, explaining why it took so long to extinguish the flames.

Once all fire units, which hold 500 gallons of water each, and a tanker holding 2,000 gallons of water arrived, Drake said, it took about 10 minutes to contain the burn. Drake said the fire spread quickly because of the weather. Weather officials issued a red-flag warning for Wednesday because of windy, dry conditions.

"It would do no good to shoot 500 gallons of water at a fire of this size," he said. "In less than five minutes, we'd be out of water."

Oleksy's brother-in-law, Ray Rivera, who lives in the main house on the lot, said he couldn't wait for the fire department to respond, and instead, he kicked down the front door of the home to make sure no one was inside.

"All I was thinking about was what if one of those babies was in the house," he said. "I ain't trying to be a hero, but those are kids."

Rivera said he could feel the heat of the flames coming toward his body and that the smoke was suffocating. No one was in the house.

Oleksy's 18-year-old son was in the home when the fire started, but he said he doesn't know what happened. He said he believes the fire ignited in a small addition next to the house.

Oleksy said the emotional pain of losing the home she built with her bare hands was a little too much to handle, and the thought of her children coming home from school to nothing hurt.

It's sad, she said.

"The pictures, the clothing, that can all be replaced," she said. "My home can't. That was our home.

"I just want to go home."



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