Rebuilding varies in difficulty for people affected by fires

Thursday, September 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

EDMOND, Okla. (AP) -- A tall chimney rose ghostlike over the remains of the Martin family's five-bedroom ranch-style home in rural Logan County Wednesday.

Fires that erupted in the area Tuesday left only a smoking pit of ash where the stately brick home had been.

Looking over the rubble, Janice Martin wore a thin smile as she stood with her husband Zachary and son Andrew.

"Nothing is permanent except our love for each other and that only expands," she said. "That's all I care about."

Andrew, 17, had been the only one home before the fire, but he had been studying and was unaware of the quickly approaching flames until a worker from an area cable company burst in the home to alert any occupants.

"He said, 'You've got to get out of there, there's embers falling on the house,"' Andrew said. "Well, when I looked I just saw a giant wall of flames."

Grabbing his hat, Andrew fled the house. His rescuer quickly phoned Janice, who was with her two daughters in Oklahoma City.

Back at the home, neighbors took care of the family's horse, while their six dogs were unharmed.

The house and its contents were insured, but Janice's catering equipment and thousands of dollars of cookbooks and recipes were lost.

"There wasn't anything we could do. There wasn't anything anybody could do," she said.

For the time being, the family will stay with friends and family until they decide whether to rebuild.

"Our one decision today was not to decide what to do today,"

Janice said.

------ Less than a mile to the south, Bennett Pryor scanned the smoking expanse of his salvage yard and shrugged his shoulders.

"I used to be able to say to anybody, 'Yeah, I got one of those,' but now I can't 'cause everything burned up," he said.

Dozens of car shells, knick-knacks and thingamabobs sat in several inches of white ash, giving the half-acre lot the look of a post-apocalyptic junkyard.

The property's most notable feature -- Pryor's two-story house made of junk -- was burned to nothing. In its place was a brown-and-yellow playhouse that an acquaintance had brought by trailer from his backyard.

"I'm movin' up in the neighborhood. Me and my girlfriend are going to live here," said Pryor, his face and beard black with soot. "We could even rent out the top level."

Meanwhile, he said his most valuable possessions remained: a picnic table, three chairs and a wooden makeshift booth, the same design as the one Charlie Brown sold advice from in the Peanuts comic strip.

"That's my kissing booth," Pryor said, smiling.

------ For John Shughrue, the fires that swept through the surrounding woods came with the random havoc of the famous Oklahoma tornadoes.

"It's just amazing how selective it is," Shughrue said, shaking his head and looking at his tidy blue home tucked off in the woods, which was surrounded by burned structures. "I don't have burned spot in my yard."

Shughrue said he was at work Tuesday when he heard about the fires and hurried home to collect what he could before quickly moving flames forced him to flee.

"I was expecting to come here and see nothing but ash,"

Shughrue said, "but it went right around us."

He wondered if his luck had something to do with divine intervention.

"I went to the mayor's prayer breakfast in Edmond yesterday.

Maybe that helped me," Shughrue said.