Two Owasso families lost their homes to a fire on Christmas Eve.
It started in the chimney of house off East 83rd Place and North 117th East near 86th Street North around 6:00 p.m.
Dee Whyal was about to read to her four grandchildren. Whyal lives with her son, Robert Renner, his three-year-old daughter, and three other family members. They had another seven family members visiting for the holidays from Ohio. The children range in age from three to seven-years-old.
“We just started sipping hot cocoa and we were about to read ‘The Night Before Christmas,’ then we smelled the smoke and I sent my stepson upstairs to check it out,” said Whyal. “He opened the door up there and flames shot out at him!”
Whyal and Renner were so grateful they had not put the kids to bed yet because the entire upstairs was on fire. They grabbed the children and ran outside.
“Just minutes after came to the front of the house with the kids we heard this loud boom sound,” said Whyal.
The roof in their living room collapsed where all 13 of them were sitting just moments before.
“The kids were screaming,” described Whyal.
Renner sent his brother to the neighbor’s home after he saw the flames jumping to their wall.
“He knocked and no one answered so I told him to go inside and check,” said Renner. “We are so lucky he did because there was a man sleeping upstairs in the room where the wall was on fire.”
“We were driving home from church and we saw the fire engines pass us,” said Emily Allbritton, she was visiting her parents, they home also burned down. “I said a prayer like I always do when the fire trucks drive by, I just did not know I was praying that my dad would be safe.”
Allbritton and her mother, Connie, her fiancé Brandon and her brother Jerrad all showed up after church to their house on fire, but they said the Lord answered their prayer, Allbritton’s dad, Wes, was standing outside, unharmed.
He was the one who was sleeping upstairs.
“We lost almost everything, including decorations for my wedding in April; Brandon and I are getting married in April,” said Allbritton. The couple and her brother were visiting for the holidays. The couple lives in Joplin and is still feeling thankful they survived the F5 tornado that hit in May of 2011. Once again, they feel blessed.
“Our strength comes from God,” said Connie Allbritton.
Their neighbors, Dee Whyal’s family and the other Owasso neighbors reminded each other about the holiday spirit.
“My neighbors are phenomenal,” said Whyal. “They just came out of their homes and the kids were barefoot, and they gave them blankets and scooped them up to keep them warm.”
Dee’s family went through another tragedy last year.
“There are no words, none; I lost a granddaughter a year ago,” said Whyal. “The thought of losing all the other ones- I am just glad they are all out.”
Her late granddaughter’s things were in the attic, which was the fire destroyed. She was only 17-months-old when she died. Her family was able to salvage a photo album with some of her pictures in it.
The Red Cross put the families up in a hotel. The parents were overwhelmed when they finally arrived at the hotel to see there were gifts there for the children left by the community.
“The outpouring of the community and the way everybody pulled together- it was awesome,” said Whyal. “We have nothing but our kids and our family and that’s what’s important.”
Neighbors were back on Christmas Day to help salvage whatever there was left in both homes. They found a few Christmas gifts still partially wrapped at the far end of the house that was not initially burned.
In a shed there were a few more hidden gifts that also made it to some smiling children faces.
You can make a donation to these families at two locations in Owasso:
THE ATTIC STORAGE
11500 E. 80TH Street N.
Donations accepted Monday-Friday: 9:00am-5:30pm, Saturday 9:00am-3:00pm
First Baptist Church in Owasso
13307 E 96th St. N.
POC Brennan Fulton
Donations accepted Wednesday 1:00pm-4:00pm, Thursday and Friday 10:00am-2:00pm
There is also a trust set up at Arvest Bank under the name Yolanda Harvey Support Trust. Monetary donations can be made at any Arvest location.