Margie McMillian is maintaining a positive outlook following a tragedy last week that destroyed and damaged everything her family once owned.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Margie said. “God doesn’t close one door without opening another.”

Early Friday, as many families were heading out their doors to local shopping spots to purchase last minute school supplies, the McMillian family was dealt a devastating blow.

Just after noon, the home of Margie, her husband Damon and their daughters Jasmine, 13, Kim, 16, and Natie, 16, was destroyed by fire. The home was located on a Hamilton County road between the communities of Carlton and Olin.

According to Chief Jack Dragoo, with the Carlton Volunteer Fire Department, a passerby spotted the flames and made the call for help.

Within eight minutes, Harold “Possum” Murphy, a member of the Carlton VFD, was at the scene. Murphy said when he arrived, flames were beginning to break through the top of the doublewide manufactured home.

Dragoo said Murphy and firefighters Shane Medlock and Dawaine Murphy were able to knock down the structure and extinguish the flames in mere minutes. They saved half of the home, where the girls’ bedrooms were located. The other end and center of the house, where the master bedroom, kitchen and living areas were located, was destroyed. However, the structure and the belongings inside were a total loss due to smoke and water damage.

Dragoo said the firefighters made quick work of extinguishing the blaze and also said firefighters from the Hico and Hamilton fire departments responded to the scene to offer aid to the local volunteers who were quickly exhausted by the sweltering summer heat.

“We are so thankful for the response from Hico and Hamilton,” Dragoo said. “They came in and helped us mop up and allowed our firefighters to take a break from the heat.”

Fortunately, the family of five was away when the fire ignited, but four-legged family member “Honey,” a Chihuahua, was trapped in the home and died in the blaze. Tiglet, Jasmine’s Guinea pig, was spared thanks to a cloth that covered the animal’s cage and protected it from inhalation.

For the three girls, tragedy could not have come at a worse time, with school just days away and their new school clothes damaged by the fire.

While many have donated items to the family, including clothes for the teens, Margie said the first day was a little rough for the trio. Margie said the girls went to their first day in the Dublin ISD smelling like smoke since the donated items were too big.

Long-time family friends, Fred Lisso and his wife Kattie, were among the first to offer support. Fred took the girls to the laundry mat the first night and after five runs through the washer, their clothes still smelled like smoke.

“They were there offering a place to stay the very first night,” Margie said. “They have done everything they could to help out.”

Margie said the outpouring of support has overwhelmed the family, and luckily their roots run deep in Erath County.

The couple has a 17-year history, which has been at the center of life in Dublin. Damon’s parents, Tim and Liz McMillian, owners of Tim’s Concrete in Dublin, have stepped up as any parents would. They offered the family a home, which is currently undergoing renovations to make it ready for living, including installing bathrooms in the home, which had none.

Liz said while they will soon have a place to call home, it is all the little things they are missing.

“So many people have called to see what they need,” Liz said. “I told one relative to just take a minute to sit in his home and stare at the walls. I told him to look around the house and everything in front of him, even the smallest things he takes for granted, they need it all. They are starting over.”

Liz said one friend stopped by with salt and pepper shakers.

“It is those little things I would never think about,” Liz said.

While Margie said they have been blessed, she also said it is hard for the couple, who has made their careers helping others, Margie works for the Department of Human Services, and Damon with MHMR (Mental Health and Mental Retardation,) to ask for help.

“We appreciate everything from everyone,” Margie said. “If this happened to anyone else, we would be the first ones there to offer help.”

In an effort to fill their new space with all the things needed to make their new home their own, community members are banning together

According to Damon’s aunt, Carolyn Harbin, Tim’s Concrete, located on East Highway 6 in Dublin, will host a donation drive on Saturday. Those interested in donating large items, such as furniture and appliances can have the items picked up on the day of the drive. For more information, call Carolyn at 445-2184.         

A bank account to benefit family has been established at TexasBank.By AMANDA KIMBLE

Staff Writer