Couple and dog avoid Viola house fire Wednesday
By Cathy Decker/Correspondent
VIOLA -- What a difference a day makes. For Tony and Janet Mack of Viola, a late night decision on Tuesday, July 28, to stay another night in their 5th wheel trailer was the right choice. The 5th wheeler is parked during the winter at their Sunset Drive home, then moved about a block away to the Mack Trucking lot for summer camping. Tony took over the Mack Trucking business from his father, who established the business in 1946.
This summer was a bit out of the ordinary due to COVID-19. They usually make their way back to their Viola home in April from their winter trailer located in San Antonio, Texas. Instead, with advice from their family, they stayed in Texas until mid-June.
The Mack Trucking lot is the ideal location for summer camping “because there is a lot more to look at there,” Janet said. While outdoors they like to watch the traffic and when they’re sitting outside they receive many more visitors than when they’re at home on Sunset Drive.
“Tony wanted to come home,” Janet said. “I said ‘Let’s stay one more night here.’”
Viola Fire chief Jim Morrison received more than one call about a fire at 903 Sunset Drive early Wednesday morning. He called Aledo, Alexis and Matherville fire departments for mutual aid at around 4:30 a.m. The fire was finally extinguished by around 9:30 that morning. A propane tank exploded and was propelled out the garage door prior to the fire department arrival, which could have sparked the fire.
Janet said they received a knock on their trailer door Wednesday morning from Casey Switzer, a Mercer County sheriff detective. He wanted to know if there was anybody in the house. Luckily the couple and their French bulldog Norman were at the trailer.
Thursday morning an insurance adjuster surveyed the fire damage as the couple watched from lawn chairs and their children were standing by for support. “It was a total loss,” said Tony.
“We’re going to have to list everything for the adjuster,” Janet said.
Kelly House, the Macks’ youngest daughter lives in Blue Grass now and was on hand Thursday morning. She said that at least three of the firefighters working that morning were Cub Scouts in Janet’s pack from more than 20 years earlier. Janet served as a Cubmaster for Viola Pack 437 for 26 1/2 years.
While inside, firefighters retrieved some precious memories. “They knew what to grab,” Janet said.
Much of the family memorabilia was located in the basement, which through the years had become a local hangout. There is a barn board wall and a full bar. Their son Pete’s Eagle Scout award was down there. “They found my dad’s and my oldest brother’s Silver Beaver awards,” Janet said. The firemen also located Janet’s Silver Beaver award (the highest award given to scout leaders).
Another item firemen were able to retrieve from the basement was a large graduation class picture from Kelly’s grandma Mack’s class. “They had a graduation picture hanging on the wall. She was born in 1905,” said Kelly.
The Macks had numerous antiques that were most likely ruined including an upright piano from Abraham Lincoln’s days that was in the basement. “It’s now charred,” Janet said. “There were so many antiques downstairs,” she added.
Antiques that will be the most missed by Janet -- “My good dishes, three sets of silverware.” She collects thimbles and perfume bottles, which she thinks will probably be lost.
Thursday morning the Mack’s were anticipating looking through the rubble to see what had survived. Two vehicles that were spared from the wreckage included their Cadillac SUV which was with them at the trailer and Tony’s 1929 Model A, which was being stored in a Mack Trucking building.
“They were usually in the garage,” Tony said.