The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 19, 2012

2 homes burn in Garber fires

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

GARBER, Okla. — Quick thinking on the part of a passerby may have saved a family’s lives in Garber early Monday morning.

Frank Hakel, a substitute route driver for the Enid News & Eagle who has held a number of positions in the paper’s circulation department over the past eight years or so, spotted the fire at about 12:30 a.m. Monday as he was driving newspaper bundles to rural carriers.

“I was just coming into Garber and saw what looked like bright light off to the east of Highway 74,” Hakel said.

The light turned out to be a burning house on Main Street, about three blocks off the highway.

“The house was about completely burnt,” Hakel said. “Hot cinders were blowing towards the next house.”

Hakel, who lives in Enid, didn’t know whether anyone was in the darkened house, but decided to take no chances.

“I didn’t know if anyone lived there, but I went and knocked on the door,” Hakel said. “The family had four kids at home — a little girl and three little boys. Once I got them awake, their dad moved the van over by my car and they sat in the van. All over the sides and top of the van, you could see ash where the fire had been blowing hot ashes on the van.”

The early morning fire was the first of two fires on the same city block, said Garfield County Undersheriff Jerry Niles. Both fires were in unoccupied houses. The second was reported at about 10:30 a.m.

Niles said deputies helped with traffic control during both incidents. Speaking late Monday afternoon, Niles said investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s Office were called to Garber investigating both fires.

“We responded on both fires,” Niles said. “The second one was about 10:30 a.m.”

Niles declined to speculate on whether the fires were the result of arson.

“At this time, we’ll wait for a determination from the state fire marshal’s office and go from there,” Niles said.

Garber Police Chief Aaron Moore said his department looked to public safety and then kept the scene secure until state investigators got there to investigate.

Brad Nulph, circulation manager for the News & Eagle, said he is proud of Hakel’s fast thinking during the fire.

“The grandmother of the family next door called us and wanted Frank to know the family really appreciated his quick actions,” Nulph said. “The heat from the fire was so hot, it melted the blinds. She wanted to express her heartfelt thanks.”

Garber Fire Chief Hank Deeds could not be reached for comment.