|Alexandria Times-Tribune, Alexandria, Indiana, April 21, 1999, page 1.|
by Linda Ferris
An Alexandria man was pulled to safety early Tuesday morning by his wife and a neighbor as flames raced through a home on CR 900N.
The single-story, block home of Robert and Barbara Webster, 551 W. County Road 900N, was heavily damaged. Robert Webster, 68, a stroke patient, was later taken to Community Hospital for evaluation.
Barbara Webster, who had been ill all night, heard the popping and cracking that warned her of the fire, according to Alexandria Assistant Fire Chief Dan Ingram. Believing the sounds were coming from the kitchen, she checked the microwave first. Then she went to the attached garage, where she saw flames in the southeast corner.
"She tried putting it out but wasn't able to," Ingram said. "She tried to call 9-1-1 but couldn't because the telephone line was dead."
A knocking at their door woke Ord and Gloria LeMaster, the Webster's neighbors to the west. Gloria LeMaster said they recognized the pickup in their driveway, but could not see anyone. Barbara Webster, Gloria LeMaster's aunt, had already ran next door to the home of Robert and Anna McDaniel, who didn't hear the doorbell.
Seeing the fire, Ord LeMaster shouted for his wife to call 9-1-1. The call rang in at the Alexandria police station at 4:17 a.m., according to dispatcher Steve Gipe.
Ord LeMaster then headed to the burning home. "He said when he got down there the house was full of smoke," said Gloria LeMaster.
Robert Webster, who was in bed in the living room, was lifted into a wheelchair by his wife and Ord LeMaster. The family's dog gave LeMaster some resistance until it understood what he was doing, according to Gloria LeMaster. After her husband took her uncle out, he looked back to find her aunt had gone back into the house.
"He yelled at her to get out," Gloria LeMaster said. "It was probably shortly after that the fire trucks arrived."
"By the time we got here, we had visible fire through half the attic," Ingram said.
Calls for mutual aid brought a stream of tankers from Frankton, Richland and Pipe Creek townships. To facilitate their movement, Ingram said Conrail was asked to halt its trains for about two hours. The tracks run between the Webster's home and the closest water source, a hydrant on Ind. 9 across from the Hi-Way Cafe.
The fire originated in the attached, two-car garage. It was ignited by electrical wiring, according to the fire department report. The Websters' loss was estimated at $100,000.
Assisting Alexandria's firefighters on the scene were Emergency Management volunteers, who blocked the road from onlookers, and Orestes firefighters, who refilled air bottles with the Madison County Air Van.