By Dave Russell
An early morning attack of acid reflux and a walk to the bathroom to get Alka-Seltzer might have saved the lives of two Sylva residents last Friday.
Shelly Vogler, 41, of Pump Mountain Road, was seeking relief from the acid reflux that woke her when she saw an orange glow coming from the hall of her home near the north end of Cope Creek Road.
“As I walked down the hall, I thought, ‘What is that crazy glow?’” Vogler said. “I don’t know why I opened the door. There was a loud roar, and my porch was completely engulfed, but the fire had not come in the house yet,” she said. “I slammed the door, and behind me a fire alarm went off. I grabbed my son and my phone and we ran out.”
Her son, Josiah Vogler, 15, a sophomore at Smoky Mountain High School, was in the house.
“I just kept screaming and screaming until my neighbors woke up, and then I sat there for three hours and watched my house burn down to the ground,” she said.
The house is a total loss, as is the 2012 Kia Soul that was in the garage.
“I went to Walmart at 4 a.m. with a little nightie on,” she said. “I just didn’t care. I needed something to wear other than that.”
The American Red Cross arrived later that morning and gave the family money for emergency needs, she said.
She is staying with friends and seeking a rental property.
Vogler had insurance on the house and is planning to rebuild in the same spot. She worries about driving up the hill in the future and visualizing the house on fire, she said.
“I’m just in a whirlwind of shock,” Vogler said. “It’s like your whole identity is gone. I don’t even have a bow to put my hair up, or a hairbrush. People ask me, ‘What do you need?’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t even have a tube of ChapStick.’”
In spite of it all, Vogler said she feels the presence of guardian angels.
“There have been some really wild miracles regarding things that did not burn,” she said. “My father’s hand-carved wooden box that held his ashes didn’t burn. It was on my mantel and my living room is bare studs and no roof and that wooden box of ashes made it through.”
A blanket she inherited from her grandmother bearing a likeness of Jesus also survived.
“It was folded in a bamboo trunk on the porch with other blankets and pillows,” she said. “There’s not one piece of the other blankets and pillows or the bamboo trunk left, but Jesus’ face and body did not burn.”
Vogler attends Summit Church and said the people there have been great.
Her pastor, Tracie Jernigan, said she would preach a sermon on “Thank God for acid reflux.”
The call came into the 911 center at about 1 a.m. Friday, according to Jackson County Fire Marshall Michael Forbis.
“The fire started on the screened-in front porch,” he said. “We can’t say with any certainty what started it.”
He met with an insurance inspector at the house Monday, but the cause of the fire will be listed as undetermined, he said.
The Sylva Fire Department responded, with mutual aid from the Cullowhee, Balsam and Savannah fire departments.
The 1,056 square foot, three bedroom home and .73 acre lot were valued at about $109,000, according to Jackson County tax records.