Blind man flees blaze

T.J. Chevette gets medical attention from the Clovis Fire Department as he waits to be transported from 1317 N. Oak St. to PRMC Tuesday. Chevette was home at the time of the fire but managed to escape through a window. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.

By Darrell Todd Maurina

A blind man managed to make it out of his burning house Tuesday afternoon through a back window.
Capt. Karen Burns of the Clovis Fire Department said T.J. Chevette, 34, was taken to Plains Regional Medical Center due to possible smoke inhalation. Medical Center staff said Tuesday evening they were not allowed to give out any reports on his condition.
“He was sitting in the back west bedroom, he smelled smoke, and he was taken to his knees by the heat and the smoke when he opened the bedroom door,” Burns said. “Nobody but him was at home, but he was able to exit through the window into his back yard.”
Flames were shooting through the windows and roof in the front of the home when Chevette exited out the back, firefighters said.
Burns said six people live at the house at 1317 N. Oak: two male adults, two female adults, and two boys, 3 years old and 4 months old. Burns said she wasn’t yet sure what caused the fire to break out about 3 p.m. but it appeared to have ignited in the bedroom shared by the two children.
The property manager, Beulah Mattingly, said she met Chevette’s wife, Patricia Vaughn, at Plains Regional Medical Center where the two worked together. Chevette and Vaughn had been renting the home since May 2003.
Mattingly said as firefighters were extinguishing the blaze she didn’t have enough information to know whether the house could be rebuilt.
“I’m not yet sure what we’ll do; it depends on what the insurance company comes up and says,” Mattingly said. “I just wish it hadn’t happened.”
While the house at 1317 received the bulk of the damage, Rosemary Manzon’s home immediately south also was damaged.
“I think they said it burned a little bit, but not too much. Thank God they stopped it; they got here quickly,” Manzon said. “I’m real glad my house is saved and I give thanks to the fire department and the police department and everybody.”
Manzon said she didn’t know the fire victims well and they mostly kept to themselves. Other neighbors said the same.
“All of us (in this neighborhood know) each other, but this is a rental house so we don’t see anybody much,” said Rachel Toney, who said she’d lived in the neighborhood about 20 years.
Eloise Edwards of the local Red Cross chapter said her organization is working to find emergency help for the fire victims.
“I think they are going to stay with family members nearby,” Edwards said. “Once the proverbial smoke clears, we will try to settle that, and we’ll get them fixed up with some clothes.”
Edwards said she’d been able to speak with Chevette and he seemed to be in fairly good condition in the ambulance.
“He’s really lucky,” Edwards said.