CULLMAN COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — A Cullman County family is sharing a cautionary tale after their home was destroyed when a Christmas tree caught fire.
Flames were reported Monday night at Billy Atchisons’ family’s home on County Road 622.
“We really built our dream home and to watch it be destroyed is absolutely gut wrenching,” said Billy Atchison.
Atchison suffered second-degree burns escaping the fire. He is actually in the business of fire safety and protection, working at Sunbelt Fire.
He has supplied several north Alabama fire departments with gear, including fire trucks. Some of the equipment Atchison sold to area departments was used to help his family.
“We were seconds away from losing our life, and these guys helped prevent that,” said Atchison.
Wednesday, the family held each other in disbelief. It was the first time Atchison’s children could see what is left of their home.
“You sit around and just look at it and see all of your memories,” said Mary Atchison.
Atchison knows many of the area first responders through his years selling fire equipment.
“As soon as it came up we knew whose it was,” continued Johnsons Crossing Volunteer Fire Chief Mark Reeves. “You just know something is going to be bad, especially you know his friend, and you know he does fire equipment and knows fire safety.”
Atchison is blessed that he and his family members are alive, but knows there are memories they cannot replace.
“Ten years ago, we lost our little girl, Alaina, and so the thought of losing all of her pictures that is absolutely the most devastating part of this event is not having those pictures of our little girl,” said Billy Atchison, who recommends backing up photos and videos on storage devices.
According to Atchison, his family recalled noticing a foul odor Monday that smelled like a dead animal. He believes propane may have filled the room and caught fire when the fireplace was lit.
“A huge flame swept all in the whole entire living room, it got the Christmas tree and the Christmas Tree just went up in flames in like seconds,” said Hope Atchison, Billy’s wife.
The family knows others will be putting up trees soon and they want to share their story with others.
“I should have had a fire extinguisher next to the fireplace and then next to a real tree,” said Atchison.
In general, firefighters also remind neighbors to keep trees far away from heat sources like a space heater or a fireplace.
There is also one big difference between a live and artificial tree.
“If you are using live trees make sure you water them regularly check the moisture,” said Reeves.
Firefighters are glad the Atchison’s are sharing the message with others. The first responders are joining neighbors, co-workers, and strangers helping the family.
“We said hey lets help them out right now so there’s, beyond praying for them , we ended up setting up several ways of how people could do that,” said Sladen Mclendon.
Mclendon works with Atchison and drove from Fairhope to help.
Loved ones started a GoFundMe Page, here. Others have made donations. Hope Atchison received a sweatshirt Tuesday with the word “joy,” and said that’s one feeling the family has not lost in the fire.
“I feel like God’s grace has just been poured out on us. We trust that he is going to bring us through this very difficult thing as well,” said Hope Atchison.
Mclendon said people can also give gift cards and make donations to:
Non-Profit Ministry: PS 92 Ministries, Inc.
135 Birmingham St. S.W. Cullman, Al. 35055.
Put in the memo line: Atchison Family