Evans family escapes fire after teen wakes family

Angela Buegel, 16, didn't claim to be a hero as she walked through the burnt and mostly roofless house her family escaped from before fire destroyed it Friday.

 

Others said differently.

"That teenage girl saved her family," Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue spokesman Jeremy Wallen said.

Angela said strange noises in her Rhett Drive home in Evans woke her up about 2 a.m.

"Everyone was asleep, and there was crackling coming from the garage," Angela said. "I opened the door, and smoke was going everywhere, so I slammed the door. I started just about beating everybody to get them up and get them out of the house."

Angela first woke her brothers -- Anthony, 18, and Carl, 14 -- who were sleeping in nearby rooms. She then ran upstairs to wake her parents, Joshua and Sharonda Smith, who are Fort Gordon soldiers.

"We were the ones running around in circles," Sharonda Smith said. "She did keep it together and got us out of there."

The family dog also made it out alive.

The fire started in the garage, moved up the back wall of the home and into the attic, Wallen said. Fire officials said it probably was electrical, but they were not able to determine an exact cause.

"Not even 30 seconds after we got out of the house, the whole back of the house was just in flames," Angela said.

The family moved into the house in July 2006.

About 9 a.m. Friday, the Smiths stood at the curb in front of the damaged house, preparing to go inside and see what could be saved. Aside from a wooden clock still ticking beside the front door and a load of laundry sealed in the dryer, little was spared damage.

"We're just happy we got out, we got all the kids out," Sharonda Smith said. "We're here. We can save what we can save and just go from there."

After extinguishing the blaze, firefighters took out a jewelry box, a wedding album, some family photos and a laptop computer purchased last Saturday. But those salvaged material things seemed insignificant compared with what could've been lost, Smith said.

"That's the one thing we're thankful for the most, that we're alive," she said. "We still have each other."

Smith said neighbors gathered at the home while firefighters extinguished the blaze to check on them and help in any way possible.

"Everybody has been great to us so far," Smith said. "Neighbors are coming down bringing clothes. Neighbors have been coming handing us money."

The Smiths have homeowners insurance, but they don't expect to raze the burned home and rebuild on the same site.

"It's time to move on," Joshua Smith said, adding that he considers his family blessed to be safe. "God is good."