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House lost in fire Saturday in Patrick
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Barbara Milligan was watching cartoons with two of her granddaughters Saturday morning when tragedy struck.
“It was around 10 a.m. on Saturday,” Milligan said. “My daughter had just moved back in with me, and I had her three little girls.”
She was with them as her daughter went to the store with a friend, she added.
One of her granddaughters, Alexis Barnette, 11, was sleeping in a bedroom of the doublewide home on Foley Road in Patrick County that Milligan had lived in since 1976, she said.
She and her other two granddaughters, Amber Barnette, 4; and Danielle Barnette, 6, were watching “SpongeBob SquarePants” in another room.
Shortly before that, Milligan said, “the heat pump was blowing cold air. I switched it off and back on,” and then repeated the same procedure as she had done several times during the years.
“It was heating the house back up, but I kept hearing this ‘Ding. Ding. Ding,’” Milligan said. “I thought, ‘surely that’s not my cell phone.’”
She went to another area of the home to pinpoint the noise, she said.
About that time, one of her granddaughters “darted around me and screamed ‘Fire!’ I looked in that room, and I could see orange blaze and smoke,” Milligan said.
After directing her younger grandchildren to “Run. Run like hell. Run to Uncle John’s” home, which is located nearby, Milligan said she got her sleeping granddaughter out of the house.
Somehow, “I did get to the phone and called 911,” Milligan said. “I didn’t get anything else except what I got on my back.”
But Milligan and all the girls, plus her two Boston terriers, escaped unharmed from the blaze that destroyed her home, she said.
Within minutes, firefighters from both Fairystone and Woolwine volunteer fire departments responded, Milligan said. She sat outside and watched as the tragedy unfolded before her eyes, she added.
“It was fully engulfed when they got there. They stayed for about five hours” fighting the fire, she said.
This was not the first time Milligan has dealt with loss.
About a year and a half ago, her 18-year-old granddaughter, Rosa Milligan, was shot to death in Bassett, Milligan said.
Austin Prater, who was 22 in August 2011, was sentenced to serve two years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter of Rosa Milligan, with eight more years suspended on the condition of four years of probation. He also was ordered to pay Milligan’s family $9,250.90 in restitution for funeral expenses, according to previous reports.
Before that, Milligan said, she was laid off from her job at Stanley Furniture, had knee surgery and helped one of her sons and her husband, Charles Milligan, battle cancer at the same time.
Her husband lost his battle about four years ago, Milligan said. “I got married when I was 16 ... All my wedding pictures were lost” in the fire, as were other photos of her husband. The two would have celebrated their 45th anniversary this month, she added.
“But I’ve got God with me, and my church family at Fairystone Baptist Church has been so wonderful. They opened the door and said, ‘Here, use it,’” of the parsonage where Milligan said she is temporarily staying.
She does not know how long it will be before she can set up housekeeping again, but does have insurance on the home the family has lived in for 25 years.
The Patrick County Sheriff’s Office and the Henry County Department of Public Safety are investigating the incident to determine the cause of the blaze, she said.
Milligan’s daughter and granddaughters also lost their possessions in the blaze.
“It’s mind-boggling to look back at everything now,” Milligan said, and added that while watching her memories go up in smoke, “I thought, ‘There’s my life in there. That’s my life.’ I thought of losing all my pictures.”
“It was terrible,” Milligan said. “I’m still stunned. I haven’t even cried yet.”
She asked “for everybody to pray for me,” and help if possible, either with monetary contributions or furniture and other household items.
Milligan may be reached by phone at (276) 930-2668; or by mail at 663 Foley Road, Stuart, Va. 24171.