Thanksgiving fire destroys home in Dora
Radu Slavik credits 2 1/2-year-old Raven with saving her family – Radu and his wife, Anna, and three other sleeping children – in the early hours of Thanksgiving morning when a fast-burning fire destroyed their Dora-area home. The couple also have three other children who were away from home that night.
“We were sleeping, and the house is big – eight bedrooms,” Radu told the Times Monday. “We were not able to hear all the way to the room where the smoke alarm was beeping. But Raven, she started calling my name and crying. We have a baby monitor and usually we hear her cry and we can know the difference in her crying, what she needs. This time it was alarm crying. We jumped up. When I opened the door, we already have heavy smoke waiting for us,” he said. “We had to go through smoke to find the children in their rooms.”
The Romanian-immigrant couple have lived in Dora since 2002, when they settled into a home they bought on County Road 356. A few years ago, they spent $85,000 enlarging it from the original 1,600 square feet to 4,000 square feet to accommodate their big family, which includes their three biological children, an adopted son and three foster children, Radu said.
His parents and a sister had also moved onto the property, living in their own homes there. The Slaviks finished the addition to their house in 2012, “but then I decided to put bricks around the house. But everything stopped when my mom died about two years ago. After she died, we didn’t want to do nothing, so we still had the stuff there and the house was half brick, half wood,” said Radu, who said he “drives everywhere” throughout the area working as a solar panel installer.
The Slaviks’ oldest son, Richard, almost 20, is a college student in Springfield and was planning to drive home later on Thanksgiving Day. Two other children, ages 11 and 15, were visiting relatives when the fire broke out early Thursday morning, Radu said.
After being awakened by young Raven’s cries, Radu and Anna hurriedly awakened the other children, ages 11, 12 and 15, and rushed outside. When the oldest child didn’t come immediately, Anna went back and woke him up again, Radu said. “We dragged him outside then everything OK, but we had no time to get back in, and we get nothing. I didn’t have time to get my wallet, just my cell phone.”
The Dora Volunteer Fire Department was toned out at 3 a.m., and DVFD chief Monte Shipley told the Times the first volunteer was on scene in about 20 minutes, with the first DVFD vehicles – a pumper and tanker – following a few minutes later.
Shipley said the fire apparently started around the home’s chimney. It quickly spread into the attic of the large home, eventually venting through the roof in the chimney area, according to posts on the DVFD Facebook page.
“They were building onto the house, adding a lot of bedrooms for their foster kids,” Shipley said. “They had put a metal roof over an older shingle room, and the fire got in between the two and basically went wild and was really hard to get to,” Shipley said.
When the family first escaped from the smoke-filled house, Radu had gone up on the roof with a garden hose, trying to douse the fire, Shipley said. “But he slid off when the roof got wet, and his wife called for help,” he said.
Caney Mountain and Eastern Douglas VFDs joined the firefighting effort in mutual aid. The last firefighters left the scene of the house, which is a total loss, at about 8 a.m. Thursday, Shipley said. “We put a lot of water on it, but we couldn’t really do anything to save it. It was basically too far gone when we got there,” he said.
Radu said he has insurance on the smaller, original portion of the house, but not on the newer addition. Their college-age son has started a fundraising effort at gofundme.com, asking for help (search for “Slavik family”), and both the Seventh Day Adventist Church in West Plains and the Dora School, where the children attend classes, have agreed to accept donated clothing and other items for the family. These sizes of clothing and shoes are needed for the children:
• Girls size 12 pants, size 14 to 16 shirts and size 8.5 shoes
• Girls size 10 to 12 pants and shirts and size 7 shoes
• For two children: girls size 4 pants and shirts and toddler size 9 shoes
• For two youths: men’s size 30 to 32 pants, size medium shirts, size 10 shoes
• Men’s size 28 to 30 pants, size small shirts and size 10 shoes.
For now, the family is living with Radu’s sister in her three-bedroom mobile home on the family’s property. “We have 16 people here,” Radu said. His father, who also lives on the property, is temporarily moving out of his home so the family will have more space.
Saturday, Radu posted a note on his Facebook page saying he had lived in Dora 15 years and he had lost his house in just one hour. But he added this message of gratitude (edited here for clarity and length): “I found one thing, it’s very important thing. What I found out, people in Dora community are very nice and polite people. The firefighter saw me walking with no shoes on first thing ... he brought me shoes. I want to say thank you to Dora community and all people around and my Facebook friends and all for your prayers, and I want God to bless you much more. ... I look to my house, I want to cry, ... but that’s nothing. From now on I’m here for everybody who needs me. Just let me know when you need me. This is something I never expect. I am foreigner. I’m from different country. I want to thank you so much and God will bless you. Dora community will be in my heart forever. ... I want to say thank you very much. God bless you guys.”