Tribune-Courier General Manager
BENTON — Nine people, including five adults and four children, are homeless today after a Friday afternoon fire that destroyed their home on Slaughter Road in Benton. Jerry and Kathleena Atkins, along with their children and members of their extended family, watched as flames and smoke engulfed their trailer house which was not insured.
The blaze broke out at around 1:30 p.m. Friday after a water heater in a bathroom caught fire. Benton Fire Chief Harry Green was the first to arrive on scene and quickly saw what a serious situation he faced. Green called mutual aid from the Hardin/South Marshall, Fairdealing/Olive, ENO and Harvey Brewers fire departments to assist in extinguishing the blaze.
Because of the extreme heat created by the fire, volunteers had to be rotated for rest. Doug Redden of the Benton Fire Department had to be transported to Marshall County Hospital for symptoms of heat exhaustion.
Green said there were no smoke detectors in the home and if the fire had happened at night when the family was sleeping it would have been much more tragic.
Jerry Atkins was on vacation and napping in a front bedroom of the home when the fire broke out. His son awakened him to get out of the house.
“If this had happened at night I wouldn’t be standing here,” he said.
“I’m just grateful my family is alive,” said Kathleena. “Our home is where people come when they are hungry or cold, or just need a place to stay. We don’t know how to act being on the other side of this.”
Jerry Atkins said for now his family is staying at the Ken Bar Lodge, where they were placed by the Red Cross on Friday. From there he says he’s not completely sure where they will go. He said he’s had offers from friends and family for a roof over their heads.
He said he is appreciative of the help of the community thus far, as he pointed to a neighbor’s garage where donated items have been stored.
“People I don’t even know are calling me to see what we need,” he said. “I’m so used to helping other people I just don’t know how to act. I can’t thank people enough for what they are doing for us. This community is just amazing.”
A fund has been set up at Lake Chem Community Federal Credit Union. Donations may be made at any branch of the credit union or by mail to Lake Chem Community Federal Credit Union, 35 U.S. Hwy. 68 East, Benton, Ky 42025.
Curt Curtner, a neighbor of the Atkins’ family, said a chili supper and silent auction is being planned for Oct. 8 to raise funds for the family. The fund raiser is in the early stages of planning and full details will be available soon, said Curtner.