Two major house fires took place in North Bryan on Wednesday, March 26.
The first occurred around 1:30 p.m. at 152 Hermon Butler Road in Pembroke when the home of Bryan County High School baseball and softball coach Al Butler burned to the ground. The other occurred around 5:30 p.m. at 2805 Ash Branch Church Road when the master bedroom of resident Dickey Chavis burned down.
Bryan County Emergency Services Director Chief Jim Anderson said local firefighters were able to limit the damage to the Chavis residence to just that one room. There were no reported injuries from this fire.
Anderson said the flames were too out of control to salvage any part of the Butler residence. He said the cause of both fires are still undetermined and are both currently under investigation.
Butler lived at the residence with his wife Robin and their four small children. Butler said no one was home at the time of the fire, but they did lose their Shih Tzu dog to the flames. Besides that, he said the toughest loss was all the family pictures and video tapes.
"If it wasn’t in my truck or in Robin’s car, it’s gone," Butler said. "Obviously, the kids are pretty torn up about the dog. Beyond that, if all you lose is paper and film, then it’s a blessing."
Butler said he is thankful the fire did not occur when his family was at home, especially in the wake of being told by firefighters that the fire started on the kids’ side of his 3,000 square-foot home.
"When I got the call at the school and walked outside and saw the amount of smoke, I knew the house was gone," Butler said. "In a matter of 30 minutes, we lost everything we owned."
Butler said an overwhelming amount of people either came by the house or called him on his cell phone while he was at the scene of the fire. One of those people was his State Farm agent Tiffany Warnell, who he said was a big help to his family by assuring them that his insurance coverage was sufficient to cover his losses.
The Butlers stayed with former softball coach Kim Covington and her family immediately following the tragedy. Butler said Friday that State Farm has set the family up in a temporary home which is about a mile from the high school.
Butler was scheduled to coach the baseball team in a game against Wheeler County the same day as the fire, but the game was cancelled due to the tragedy. Butler said the school made the announcement to the Redskin baseball team for them not to go to the scene of the fire, but that did not stop nearly every kid on the team from driving to their coach’s house.
Family and friends have set up the "Al and Robin Butler house fire account" at First Bank of Coastal Georgia and contributions can be made at either the Pembroke or Richmond Hill branch.