Stillwater News Press

Local News

August 2, 2012

Wildfires bring destruction, tears to Stillwater residents

STILLWATER, Okla. — Ester Jardot said her family home on Fairgrounds Road was a great place to grow up.

“It’s country out here, and when you live in the country, you make your own entertainment,” she said. “We used to have Easter egg hunts, ride horses, ride motorcycles, run cattle. We had a big garden and grew lots of things. The guys used to have a big deer hunt every Thanksgiving. And we used to go to this little cave nearby. The rumor was that it used to be a hideout for outlaws.”

Those memories flooded back to Jardot Wednesday, two days after a wildlfire destroyed the two bedroom farmhouse that had been in her family for 74 years.

“It’s gone now, but I will always think of this place as my home,” said Jardot as she walked through the charred remnants of what was a country home nestled in a heavily wooden area.

A narrow, winding lane leads to the home, which is now bleak, scarred and laden with ash. Twisted, burned household appliances and furniture were strewn throughout the fire scene.

“My mom and grandma both died in this house. That’s another reason I’m so sentimental about it,” said Jardot.

Sweeping away ash and debris with her hand, Jardot tried unsuccessfully to find initials her grandfather had scrawled into the cement porch.  

“I know it’s here somewhere. I just can’t find it,” said Jardot, trying to hold back tears.

Jardot said her brother, Leroy, was living in the home when the fire struck, but escaped unharmed.

No one was seriously injured in Monday’s wildfire outbreak in northeast Stillwater, but several residents suffered significant loss of personal property.

Bret Franzmann, a Stillwater music teacher, escaped barefooted but unharmed from his mobile home, which was destroyed.

“He’s still in shock,” said Randy Wick, a lifelong friend. “He lost everything.”

Wick said Franzmann owned the mobile home on Wooten Lane in the rural Villa Estates on State Highway 51 east of Stillwater but did not have insurance.

Wick said Franzmann was alone in his home when he looked out the window and noticed the fire. He ran out of the home, but ran back in to rescue his cats. He was able to locate one of the four cats.

Later Monday night, Wick said that Franzmann was informed that a firefighter went into the home and rescued two more of his cats. The firefighter also collected several musical instruments, as well as a photograph of Franzmann’s grandparents that hung on the wall.

Wick, a Stillwater real estate agent, said people have dropped off money and gifts at his office to help Franzmann and Peggy Cox, with whom Franzmann shared the mobile home.

Wick said he is organizing a fundraiser for Franzmann and Cox in the next few weeks at a local park.

“I’m going to get the local musicians together, take my cooker out there and have a barbecue festival,” said Wick. “We’ll buy everything and 100 percent of the donations will go to them.”

Another fundraiser will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 12 at Joseppi’s in Stillwater. Red Dirt Rangers and Jim Paul Blair will perform.

Donald Alderson was in the line of fire as well, suffering significant damage on his property on Wooten Lane.

Alderson said fire destroyed 350 round hay bales, 24 acres, two flatbed trailers, a pole barn, a truck and a backhoe and numerous pine trees. His home did not catch fire.

“The firemen were super. They came in and saved my house,” said Alderson.

Alderson said he has 45 head of cattle to fed.

“I don’t know where I’m going to get hay,” he said. “I need to feed them hay because there isn’t any grass, and I don’t have any.”

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