GLEN ROSE – A 28-year-old house guest was killed and a family of three barely escaped with their lives late Saturday night after a fire completed destroyed a trailer home in the 500 block of Litigation Street.
The victim, a  man initially identified as  “Little Joe” Vara of Walnut Springs, died at the scene, probably from fire and smoke inhalation. He was the brother of Mary Vara, who lived at that residence with her husband Ricky Lynn Chamberlain, and their 4-year-old son “Little Ricky” Chamberlain.
The Chamberlains managed to escape the fire though their bedroom window, but could not save their guest, who had been staying with them in the living room on the couch, according to  Carla Sheid Whitley, who identified herself as Ricky Chamberlain’s stepmother.
In a public post on Facebook Sunday, Somervell County Fire Chief Mark Crawford lamented that authorities were unable to save the life of the victim – even though they responded to the scene quickly. (The department had just cleared back-to-back EMS calls and had firefighters already awake and able to give a quick response.)
“It is with deep sadness that we offer our condolences to the family as well as our continued commitment to our citizens in overall community risk reduction and public fire safety,” Fire Chief Crawford said.
Somervell County authorities responded to the report of a fully engulfed house fire at 504 Litigation Street on Saturday, Oct. 8 – just prior to Midnight on Sunday, Oct. 9.
“The first arriving engine crew was advised that everyone except one person was able to escape the fire,” Fire Chief Crawford said.
The fire chief reported that the stove in the residence was believed to have electrical problems. Carla Sheid Whitley agreed. She said she had been told there were electrical problems in that structure for quite some time.
Carla Sheid Whitley said the family reported hearing popping noises (signifying sparks) in the house the night of the fire.
“They were sleeping in the back room and Mary smelled smoke and heard that crackling,”  Carla Sheid Whitley said. “She opened the bedroom door and there were smoke and flames. Ricky told her to shut the door and get the window open.”
As the family prepared to exit the home through the window, Mary Vara tried opening the bedroom door again to save her brother.
But fire burst into the room, forcing her to shut it again, Carla Sheid Whitley said.
“Ricky told her to get out and by that point the sheriff’s department and the fire department were there,” she said. “But the structure was so engulfed, they couldn't get to him. They could hear him hollering for help but no one could reach him."
Carla Sheid Whitley said she was told the smoke and the fire was believed to have confused Little Joe Vara – and significantly slowed down his efforts to escape before ultimately shutting down his lungs.
“When his voice faded away, they knew he was pretty much gone," she said. "When the fire was out they found him by the door. They said they could hear him hollering for help during the fire but couldn’t get to him. His yelling kind of faded away. … It was very, very sad."
Fire Chief Crawford said firefighters did everything they could to reach the victim while the the house was fully involved in flames. But their gear quickly became unable to protect them from the intense flames, and that fire forced the crew back outside after an initial search.
“It wasn't until the fire was knocked back that a second crew was able to re-enter the mobile home and find the victim who had perished,” the fire chief said.
Carla Sheid Whitley said her stepson and his family called her about the fire around 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
Whitley said after the fire, the owner of the brown trailer they Chamberlains were renting gave the tenants back their rent to help them find another place to stay. Also, she said, the Red Cross has pledged to put the family up for five days at a nearby hotel.
In a post on Facebook’s Hood County Breaking News, friends Larry and Jenn Clark observed that the fire consumed pretty much everything the Chamberlains owned.
“It was a very tragic and sad night,” the post read. “Ricky is thankful and fortunate for their lives. But they are left with absolutely nothing.”
Carla Sheid Whitley said her stepson and his family need help with clothes and living items and donations would be very welcome.She can be reached on Facebook orby email at carlasheid@yahoo.com.