Gary Harris wasn’t angry or disheartened about the fire — sparked by a errant bottle rocket — that destroy his late mother’s home late Friday night in Athens.
He was just hoping someone — anyone — could supply him with a dumpster or a backhoe so he could clean up the mess.
Harris was at work when the roof at 106 Magnolia St. was ignited by what fire officials believe was a bottle rocket left over from the Fourth of July holiday.
“We don’t have a definite cause, but there is the possibility that some fireworks got into the gutter where there were leaves or pine straw and it caught fire,” Athens Fire Chief Tony Kirk said Tuesday. “Those who witnessed the fire, reported that it originated near the roof line. We found multiple spent bottle rockets around the house and one witness said quite a few rockets were popping in the area that evening.”
Fireworks of all kinds are illegal in the city limits, mainly because they cause injury and property damage.
In this case, Harris and the other five relatives who own the one-story, wood-frame home, did not have it insured.
It had been three years since Mae Slaughter, mother of five, had died. Her home was empty and had no electrical power, the chief said. Family members had clothing and other personal items stored in the home. On Tuesday afternoon, while family member were cleaning up in the 95-degree heat, Harris stopped to pluck a commemorative Auburn football — scorched but still salvageable — from the broken front window of the home.
“That’s my team,” Harris said, carefully grasping with gloved hands the shellacked, wooden football of the Tigers.
Anyone who would like to loan some dumpsters or a backhoe to Harris can reach him at 256-431-0660 or his sister, Cynthia Wilson, at 256-286-9005.