Fast-spreading fire destroys Arjay home

Published 10:32 am Thursday, November 30, 2023

By Jennifer McDaniels

A structure fire occurring Sunday afternoon in the Arjay community resulted in the destruction of a residential house located on Old Country Road. According to information provided by Bell County Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tim Howard, on Nov. 26 at 1:55 p.m., his fire department responded to the fast-spreading blaze that broke out in the department’s Station 1 area. Howard reported that upon the arrival of firefighters, the house was fully involved except for its garage.

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“Ten firefighters responded,” Howard told the Middlesboro News. “We battled the blaze for approximately two and a half hours. We set up and extinguished the fire. We didn’t make entry, but kept the fire contained to that area.”

According to Howard, the blaze started in the east rear of the house. Howard also reported that the location of the residential structure on Old Country Road required a lower staging area for pumper operations because of the narrow road that prevented access to apparatuses. Howard confirmed that volunteer firefighters also responded from East Pineville, Right Fork and Calloway companies.

Bridgett Dixon, of Page, told the Middlesboro News that the house had belonged to her father, Ray Lankford, who was not home when the fire erupted. Dixon said she and a brother had once lived in the house, as well.

“Everything was lost my dad built at home probably 30 years ago,” Dixon said. “Every nail that was in that house, he drove by hand. He lost everything. Thank God no one was hurt, but now there’s nothing. No, we’re not receiving any kind of assistance, and there was no insurance, so?”

Dixon described the loss as heartbreaking. Even though she said her father, who is in his 80s, had to “give up” the house and move to an apartment because of sickness, he was still very much attached to it. She said she thought her father had purchased the property when he was around 15 years of age.

“It’s been home all our lives,” Dixon said. “And now it’s all gone in the blink of an eye. My dad worked hard his whole life. He started working hard when he was eight, I think, to help take care of all the other brothers and sisters he had. He didn’t get a chance to go to school, but he sure was good at the things he did know about.”

Dixon said her brother had been living in the house after her father moved to an apartment, but that he had not been home when the fire broke out, either.

“Unfortunately he was in jail, but my dad still had everything he owned in that house,” Dixon said.

Howard reported that the cause of the Arjay fire is undetermined. Dixon said, however, that some are suspicious about how it got started.

“They’re thinking that someone set the fire,” Dixon said. “But we’re not sure.”

While the cause of the Arjay fire may be undetermined at this time, Howard did say the recent dip in temperatures saw more house fires unfortunately erupting. Colder temperatures cause people to start up their stoves, fireplaces, and heaters for the first time of the season, and oftentimes they, along with chimneys, are not far enough away from possible flammable materials like curtains or clothes. Howard urges residents to take extra precautions while heating their homes with the start of more wintry weather. He took this time to remind residents about proper fire prevention.

“Make sure chimneys are cleaned and maintained properly,” Howard said. “Never leave a fire or electric heater unattended. Lastly, make sure all objects are at a safe distance away from anything flammable.”

Sunday’s residential structure fire in Arjay remains under investigation.