STILLWATER, Okla. —
Panic surged through Bret Franzmann’s brain as he watched a wildfire leap toward his mobile home a little more than a year ago.
Franzmann and his pets escaped the July 30, 2012, wildfire that burned nearly 200 acres east of Stillwater. His home on Wooten Lane in Villa Estates and nearly everything in it was destroyed.
The wildfire remains a clear memory as he rebuilds his life today with help from his friends and the Stillwater community.
Franzmann thought he heard sirens outside his mobile home on July 30, 2012, but the air conditioning was loud and he wasn’t sure until he peered out a window.
“The fire was already in the yard, and it was coming fast,” Franzmann said. “I went outside and tried to turn the hose on but the nozzle fell off, and the fire was surrounding me.”
Franzmann raced inside and tried to find his cats. Barefoot with one cat stuffed into its cat crate, he made it outside to safety and watched the wildfire.
“What was wild about it was that the fire was in the air and the wind was blowing hard,” he said. “I could see sparks blow in the air and wherever they landed a small fire would break out and start spreading into a huge fire.”
Franzmann was allowed to watch from a safe distance as a firefighter assessed the situation. He was evacuated to safety when a pump truck arrived to battle the wildfire.
Franzmann lost both his cars and $25,000 in musical instruments, including an 1860-vintage violin and several collector’s guitars. The performer and music teacher also lost years of lesson material and decades of musical history.
Peggy Cox, who shared the home with Franzmann, wasn’t home when the fire swept through.
“I saw a huge line of flames, and I thought, it’s gone,” Cox said.
And it was. They recovered a few personal items, but that’s all.
Firefighters went into the home and rescued the remaining cats, four instruments and a collection of Franzmann’s family heirlooms, including old photos, glasses, a broach and a glove that belonged to his grandparents.
“If I had to pick one thing to save that would have been it,” Franzmann said.