CATTARAUGUS - Two brothers, both servicemen, both home-on-leave at the same time, lost most of their possessions when a fast-moving fire ravaged a home on County Road 6, Cattaraugus, rented by their mother, Terri Cartalano, from Darryl and Jodi Oakes.
The fire occurred early Saturday morning, Oct. 16.
Marine Private First Class Trevor Henderson was home for a few welcome weeks of R&R after a stint in Afghanistan. His brother, Army PFC Brent Henderson, was on an arranged leave from Fort Knox, so that the family could spend some time together before Brent's own upcoming Afghan deployment and Trevor's return to his base.
Army PFC Brent Henderson takes a break from poking through the smoking debris of the house where most of his brother Trevor’s, his own and their mother’s possessions were destroyed. Their nephew, Dominic Martinez, helped Brent search, but there was little left to find.
At the time of the fire, Trevor was the only one in the house. He was asleep in the bedroom when he suddenly awoke, smelled smoke, and spotted flames crackling in the living room. With the fire already blocking his way to an outside door, he jumped out the bedroom window and ran around the house, grabbing up a garden hose on his way. Breaking the living room window, he tried, unsuccessfully, to douse the blaze. Realizing that in his hurry to escape, he'd left his new cell phone behind, he dashed down the driveway and across the road to a neighbor's home to call 911.
According to Cattaraugus Fire Chief Wayne Stein, the fire was so fast-moving, that by the time personnel reached the scene, the house was fully engulfed and already nearly totally destroyed .
Both young servicemen lost not only their clothes, but also important papers and numerous personal possessions, including Trevor's treasured high-school sports trophies. Brent's car, parked near the house, also ignited, and was quickly reduced to a charred hulk.
Filing cabinets containing Mrs. Cartalano's and her sons' personal documents such as their birth certificates, and her tax papers, receipts, bank records and the like were wiped out. She was too heartsick for comment, but her daughter, Brandy Martinez, summarized the situation very simply, saying, "They lost just about everything they had."
Ms Martinez credits her brother Trevor's military training with saving his life. "I think his deployment in Afghanistan sharpened his senses so that that he somehow became aware of the fire in time to save himself," she said.
The building's owner, Darryl Oakes, who lives just a short distance away, has been improving the property, and had just finished putting a new roof on the house the day before. As he gazed at the still-smoldering ruins, he mentioned that he'd arranged for a load of gravel to be delivered that day and spread on the driveway. He said that although he naturally regretted the loss of the building, he was thankful no one was harmed.
Oakes' wife, Jodi, said, "Mrs. Cartalano has been such a good tenant that we wanted to make improvements for her. Now, my husband and I are looking for another house for the family. We'd like to find another trailer we could put up there for her to move into, although with winter coming, that may take awhile."
Representatives of the American Red Cross have contacted Mrs. Cartalano to offer help. Her daughter, Brandy, is also trying to find assistance for her mom and brothers, and said that Trading Post South, in Cattaraugus, has offered its services as a collection point for donations. She said she'd like to organize some type of benefit for her family, but as yet had no idea what form that might take.
People who have questions or would like to assist, may call Brandy at 257-5348. The Trading Post contact is Ms Elizabeth O'Neil at 257-3077.