LAKELAND – Perry and Sonek Ferrell’s home went up in flames last Thursday afternoon on the shores of Garner Lake, but they were not injured.
Brent Perkins, Shelby County Fire Department’s public information officer, said the fire took the attention of companies from Shelby County and Arlington. The first trucks responded within four minutes and found heavy smoke billowing from the front of the house while the entire back was on fire. The fire went up through the soffit and then the breeze pushed the flames through the whole house.
Six engine companies responded with more than 30 firefighters to battle the blaze.
“It was well seated, very hot, a very aggressive fire,” Perkins said.
The firefighters were able to save the house next door when lake winds threatened to spread the fire. But the Ferrells’ 8,471-square-foot home was a total loss. The house and just over half an acre of property had an appraised value of $959,000.
In the process of beating back the flames, two firefighters suffered heat exhaustion but have recovered, Perkins said.
Firefighters were back at the blaze in the Windward Slopes neighborhood on Friday afternoon, taping off the area with the help of law enforcement officers to limit traffic as they watered down more hot spots amid the smoldering ruins.
The official cause of the fire has not yet been released, but Perkins said it appears to have started around the grill in the patio area.
Perry Ferrell agreed with that assessment in a brief phone interview Monday night. He said their charcoal grill flared up, and some of the embers that flew up must have lodged in the wrong place at the back of his home, which faced Garner Lake. A strong breeze off the lake rapidly fed the fire.
Lisa Boysen, a Lakeland neighbor, was among dozens who expressed their dismay and good wishes for the family on Facebook. She wrote, “I am thankful Perry and family are safe. This house was a landmark (in my opinion). I wish them well, and hope they are able to rebuild soon.”
Mari Authement passed along a message from the Ferrells via the Facebook group, “Everything Garner Lake.” She said they are overwhelmed with the amazing support of their entire community.
Authement continued, “They would personally like to thank all of the brave firefighters and first responders who came from all over Shelby County, as well as all of the outpouring of love and support from neighbors and friends. They feel incredibly blessed that everyone is safe, and to have all of your support during this very challenging time.
“Without the depth and strength of our SCFD, the neighboring losses would have been tremendous.”
She said they appreciated the critical fire-fighting use of six pumpers, several support vehicles and ambulances, and the help from many on-duty and off-duty firefighters who worked to tame the fire for more than 18 hours, using 1.5 million gallons of water.
Authement also passed along the Ferrells’ statement of appreciation: “An amazing depth of skill and courage. The friends and firefighters ran into the melee shouting our names and ensuring our safety. Thank you all. Way too many to list. We love you all. Thank you. … The love of Christ has blessed us with personal safety and all valuable assets recovered. We are so thankful for the wonderful friends we have, for showing their love and support.”