It’s a night no one would want to remember, and Gene Dixon said he cannot forget. “I’m still traumatized.”
Dixon, 56, had gone to bed Saturday night when his dog had to go outdoors. He let Lulu, a lab/beagle mix, out the back door. Ten minutes later he heard a noise and thought it was the dog scratching at the door. “Then I started walking up the hallway and just saw orange.” Dixon realized his mobile home had caught on fire and went to the back door to get outdoors. Lulu slipped past him into the house.
A neighbor was alerted to the fire, and the fire department was called. In the meantime, Dixon went to the home’s door, and when he opened it, smoke came pouring out. Dixon “hollered” for Lulu and looked for her, but she wouldn’t come. Apparently, however, she followed his voice to safety. “As soon as I got to the bottom of the steps, I turned and she was coming out.”
It was a relatively calm night Saturday with no wind or extreme temperatures in the Town of Floyd, said Kevin Hall, captain at the Floyd Co. Volunteer Fire Department’s Station 1, within sight of Dixon’s home. The mobile home was fully involved when the first firefighter arrived on the scene, after the call was received at 11:41 p.m. The priority, Hall said, was protecting other homes. Another mobile home “was against the end of it,” Hall explained. “Luckily (the fire) didn’t get out enough and through the trailer.”
Over 25 firefighters from Station 1 and Station 2 in Willis fought the fire. They were on the scene until about 1:00 p.m.
Hall said the cause of the fire has not been definitely determined. There was a kerosene heater in the living room, where the fire started.
Dixon lost everything in the fire, except the clothes he had worn to bed that night. Firefighters went in after the fire to retrieve his cell phone, wallet and car keys, which had been in his pant’s pockets. Dixon said he also got some shirts out and had taken them to the laundromat, but that didn’t help them due to the smoke damage.
He also has some ongoing effects from the smoke. He threw up several times that night as a result of inhaling the smoke and was given oxygen from rescue personnel on the scene. On Tuesday, he said he was “still not breathing right” and intended to visit the doctor. Dixon said Lulu is not feeling like herself either. “I can tell she went through an experience, too.”
Dixon has already been able to find a place to live – a mobile home in Willis, with the help of his foster sister, Mary Underwood. The home’s owner is one of several people who have been very kind to him since the fire. Dixon said the people who have helped him have “amazed” him. Others have included his boss from work – the City of Radford – who gave him clothes, a woman whom he didn’t know but who gave him some money, and Juanda Crigger, who is collecting donations for him at the local Department of Social Services. In regard to clothing, Dixon wears size 29X30 pants and small shirts. He also needs under clothes and household items of any type. He also has no television or radio.
Despite everything he lost, Dixon is grateful that he and his dog escaped the fire. “At least we got each other.”
Dixon said he has had Lulu, who is 11, since she was a puppy. “She was born in my bed. There was a litter of seven or eight. She was the only one who kept coming over to me, so I said that’s the one I’m keeping.”
Now, Dixon said the two of them “saved each other.”
Since the fire, Dixon said he has only gotten three or four hours of sleep. “Every time I close my eyes, I see fire. I’m traumatized. I just realized how close I came to dying.
“If the dog had not wanted out,” he continued, “and I had fallen asleep, I wouldn’t have made it out of there. It must have been the hand of God.”