Vance AFB assists Army family after house fire

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. M. Davis
  • Public Affairs
Helping families in need is what Vance Air Force Base does best -- regardless of the military service. That was the case when one Army family needed help after their house was gutted by fire in early February.
Army Sgt. Eric Clark had relocated his family to Enid last fall before he deployed for an 18-month tour at Camp Casey, Korea. With his family living in a rental house at 1713 Wallace Street, he left with peace of mind, feeling his wife and four children were safe -- that feeling changed Feb. 8.
"Around 10 p.m., I was watching a movie on the couch and fell asleep with a candle lit in the room," said Sergeant Clark's wife, Jaime. "I was awakened by my dog, Teddy, who was barking. The room was glowing, and I saw flames."
Mrs. Clark ran screaming to the boys' bedroom to wake them.
"I remember my son, Dallen, telling me and my younger son, Christian, to get down -- away from the smoke," she explained. "Then we all ran to my daughters' room to get them."
Once the family was assembled, they quickly ran down the hallway past the flaming living room and out the front door to safety.
"Teddy was right behind us the whole time, but when we ran outside, he turned around and ran toward the flames," she said. "We tried to go back in the house to get him, but the flames were too hot."
With the searing heat shattering the windows, the family backed away from the house.
The Clarks' 9-year-old daughter, Farinn, ran to a neighbor's house for help.
"The kids knew what to do. They were so brave," Mrs. Clark said. "If we only had a family evacuation plan, we would have never run out the front door -- it was too risky."
Help was immediate. The American Red Cross quickly placed the family in a hotel and provided money for food and clothing, while Sergeant Clark was contacted and obtained emergency leave to come home.
Mrs. Clark made a call to the Vance AFB Deployed Spouse Group she had been a member of since December. The group contacted wing leadership, then support for the troubled family came pouring in from several base agencies.
"The base wrote down a list of our needs, and people were awesome with the donations," Sergeant Clark said. "You take for granted everything you have until it's gone. When it's gone, you don't know where to start again."
The Air Force community includes other branches of services within the Deployed Spouses Group, said Teri Presa, Vance Deployed Spouses Group co-facilitator.
"It was wonderful to see such an outpouring of assistance from every agency on base," Ms. Presa said. "In an emergency, everyone is able to come together and wrap our arms around the problem to solve it."
Not only has Team Vance pitched in to give the Clarks a new start, the Enid community has as well. The family received furniture, clothes, toys, household items -- even a new puppy.
"There is such a sense of community and partnership, on and off base," Ms. Presa said. "Everyone was so willing to help this family bounce back."
Although it will take time for them to bounce back from this tragedy, Sergeant Clark is optimistic about what the future holds for his family and thanked the base and Enid community for their help.
"I never expected all of the support we received," Sergeant Clark said. "Everybody has been great to us, and we really appreciate it."