Early-morning fire destroys family’s Tecumseh home
Flames from Dub and Crystal Williams’ house on Highway 160 in Tecumseh burned relentlessly in the dark, early-morning hours Monday despite the steady shower of rain falling from the sky and a swarm of volunteer firefighters doing their best to suppress it.
The Williams family lost their home and almost all of their belongings to the blaze, but thanks to the family’s fire alarms, Crystal, who was home alone at the time, escaped the burning home safely. Dub, a boilermaker, was away for work, and Dub and Crystal’s two daughters daughters, 11-year-old Lily and 14-year-old Kaylin, were spending the night with a family friend Sunday because Crystal had to be at work early Monday.
“You wouldn’t think it would have burned like it did with all the rain,” Nathanael Winrod, Tecumseh Volunteer Fire Department chief, told the Times Monday. “But it was burning good when we got there, and it was a really tough one to put out. The rain didn’t seem to have any effect on it at all.”
Everything was normal when Crystal went to sleep Sunday night but she awoke around 2:50 a.m. to the screeching sound of the fire alarms inside the home. She ran out of her bedroom, saw flames in the living room and rushed to get out of the house. Once outside, she dialed 911 and told an Ozark County dispatcher the home was on fire.
A hard fire to fight
Tecumseh VFD was dispatched, and Winrod, who was already awake with a sick daughter, hurried out of his family’s house and headed to the Williams home. Other Tecumseh VFD firefighters, awakened by their radios, suited up and headed toward the Williams house too. The dispatcher also toned out Caulfield, Lick Creek, Bakersfield, Dora and Howell Rural VFDs, and soon several firefighters were in route to provide mutual aid in fighting the blaze. When the firefighters arrived on scene, the front two rooms of the home were burning extensively, and the front porch roof had begun to collapse. Flames licked the home’s outer roof.
About 15 volunteer firefighters responded from the six departments, along with two tankers from Rural Howell VFD, one tanker from Dora, a pumper from Bakersfield and Tecumseh’s own pumper and tanker. The firefighters quickly used a portable pump to draw water from the family’s backyard swimming pool into the trucks to be used on the fire.
“It really helped us a lot in our shuttling [water],” Winrod said. But even with the extensive number of trucks, the additional water and several volunteer firefighters doing their best to put the fire out, the home was completely destroyed. A small laundry/utility room on the back of the house is all that’s left standing, and it is heavily damaged. The family’s truck also sustained some damage but is still drivable.
Two elements of the Williams house caused extra difficulty in controlling the blaze, Winrod said. The older home was built with a lot of wood – mostly solid oak boards – and the roof consisted of a layer of shingles covered with metal.
“Old oak boards take a lot of fire to burn,” said Winrod, who co-owns a general contractor business, Winrod Brothers Construction, with his brother Jonathan. “Newer homes are usually built with a lot of pine and pressboard, which burns up a lot faster. The oak burns a lot slower, but at the same time it makes a lot of fuel too.”
Winrod said the roof’s asphalt shingles were sandwiched between wood decking underneath and the metal roofing on top, which made it incredibly difficult to get to and extinguish the blaze. Firefighters hit the roof from both sides, but the shingles, sandwiched between the two protective layers, continued to smolder.
Winrod said it’s difficult to determine exactly what caused the house fire, because the home was so extensively damaged. Firefighters on scene discussed possible causes, but they were unable to pinpoint a definite reason. By the way the outside of the home was burning, Winrod said it makes him think it could have been some type of electrical issue coming from the front room and/or front area of the home’s attic.
Known for giving back
Crystal Williams and her daughters are known for their kindness and giving spirit, community members said. Crystal is very active with school events at Bakersfield, where Lily and Kaylin attend classes. She was an active part of the recent Freiman benefit auction, which raised $32,000 for Kim and Jake Freiman, the wife and son of Luke Freiman, a Caulfield-area neighbor who was killed in a car crash.
“[Crystal] is such a sweetheart. She was one of the first ones to message me to help with the auction,” Freiman benefit organizer Monica Summers told the Times. “She helped set up the tables and volunteered to be a cashier at the event. She is a huge supporter of the community and is in charge of the booster club at Bakersfield school. She’s always looking for ways to help the school raise money. We just adore her.”
Winrod said Crystal is also a familiar face to their department after she helped during the historic flood in 2017, working as a volunteer handing out emergency items to people at the firehouse and helping cook meals for volunteers and others.
“It’s really sad to see someone lose all their stuff like that,” Winrod said. “ Especially someone who has helped the community like she has.”
When contacted by the Times Monday, Crystal said their family has been touched by the generosity the community has shown them in their time of need. She said a few hours after the fire the family had already been offered a safe and warm place to stay.
“Today has been a very emotional day, but being surrounded by family and amazing friends has made it easier to deal with,” Crystal posted on Facebook Monday night. “I can’t even begin to express how thankful we are to everyone who was at the house early this morning in the cold rain and to everyone who has reached out and called and sent messages to us today… we appreciate each and every one of you. We are truly blessed to live in such an amazing community.”