A fuel line leak apparently caused the fire that cost an Arkansas woman everything she owned, but she and her baby escaped injury.
An Arkansas woman and her 11-month-old daughter barely escaped injury Saturday afternoon when fire engulfed the woman's mobile home trailer, destroying everything she owned.
Tammy Lucas was pulling the 35-foot Kountry Aire camper trailer behind a pickup truck when a fuel line leak apparently started the fire just before 4 p.m. Lucas was about 3 miles west of Lawrence on U.S. Highway 40, and Douglas County sheriff's officers blocked the highway for more than two hours.
Lucas told emergency and fire officials that when she noticed the fire she grabbed her daughter from the truck. By the time she went to the back of the trailer, flames were shooting up the side. Sparks set the baby's diaper on fire, but Lucas was able to get it off her daughter before she was harmed.
Lucas, who had been in Kansas for about 2 1/2 weeks and was living in the trailer, lost all of her possessions. Emergency and fire personnel calmed Lucas and played with the baby after the fire was put out.
Kanwaka and Lecompton volunteer fire departments responded to the fire. Kanwaka Fire Chief Chris Lesser said the pickup truck apparently had a fuel leak. The tank didn't explode, and neither did two small propane tanks in the trailer.
"The truck was fully involved when we got there," Lesser said.
The fire burned hot enough to melt aluminum flashing on the trailer, causing it to pool and harden on the highway. A small patch of grass near the road also caught fire, but it was doused before spreading.
Several of the responding fire and medical personnel went home to collect diapers and other baby supplies.
The Douglas County American Red Cross found a motel room for Lucas and the child, along with baby formula, food, clothing and other essentials.
"We've put her in a position where she has a few days to see what resources she has," said Michelle Jantz, executive director of the Douglas County American Red Cross. "She lost her home and everything."
Jantz said the Red Cross doesn't accept donations of food or clothing, but it does collect money that is used to help people in such situations.
"Our local disaster fund is in desperate need of money," Jantz said. "These disasters happen one right after another."
Recent tornadoes and flooding in the Midwest have depleted Red Cross disaster funds nationwide, she said. Locally, there have been 80 families helped this fiscal year, which ends July 1. In contrast, there were 15 families who received disaster assistance in 1995, and 29 families in 1996, Jantz said.
"I think part of it is that we're growing and we have more people, but there were also a lot more fires in the past years," she said.
The Red Cross is undergoing a national disaster assistance fund-raiser right now, and Douglas County has raised $2,250 of the $5,500 needed by the end of June. Douglas County residents can contribute to the local or national Red Cross by sending donations to 2518 Ridge Ct., No. 205, Lawrence 66046, or by calling 843-3550.