Fire consumes apartment, garage

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Five Points, Farmington-Rich Creek and Belfast Fire Departments responded to a Saturday afternoon blaze at the home of Eddie and Rachael Bowles of Conrad Road, Belfast, where their garage burned. Their son, Daniel, and his roommate lived in an apartment at the back of the garage. The structure and its contents were a total loss, according to Eddie Bowles.

BELFAST - A fire of undetermined origins destroyed a garage and its apartment and damaged the owner's house on Saturday afternoon when the family was at a wedding, the victim and neighbors said.

"I'll probably rebuild it," Eddie Bowles of Conrad Road said Sunday of the building that contained guns, tools, appliances and extensive family memorabilia. "My son, Daniel, lost all his clothes and personal stuff." A sedan was damaged beyond use.

Donnia and John Wilkinson were nearby at about 4:15 p.m. when they "heard what we thought was gunfire," Donnia Wilkinson said. An emergency responder went speeding by, so they followed. John Wilkinson went to move Bowles' car, but it was locked and a tire was on fire. He also warned firefighters about a nearby propane tank.

"What amazed me was that three fire departments responded," Donnia Wilkinson said, naming them: Five Points, Farmington-Rich Creek and Belfast Fire Departments. "They had ... 10 fire trucks and they did an excellent job."

She and Bowles said Daniel Bowles and another 18-year-old man occupied the garage apartment and had just landed jobs at Ace Bayou to make beanbag chairs.

Donnia Wilkinson said a neighbor called 911 and then called Bowles who was attending a wedding with friends and relatives.

Bowles said, "Me and my current wife went to my ex-wife's wedding. We left about 1:15 p.m. and about three hours later, my aunt called me saying the garage was on fire. It was probably 80 percent gone by the time we got there.

"Half the siding on the house will have to be replaced," he continued. "It's melted and all buckled up from the heat.

"I'm kind of having trouble reading my (insurance) policy," Bowles said. "I had over $10,000-worth of guns and $8-9,000-worth of tools, a tractor and weed-eater..."

Fire officials said the fire "started toward the front and worked its way to the back," he sad.

Bowles is a benefits representative for the United Auto Workers and was to have left for a union conference on Sunday. He's lived in Tennessee since 1980. His main house is a double-wide with a 700-square-foot addition. He anticipated that his son would stay at the house now.

"I'm just thankful those boys weren't back there," he said. "If my kids' mother wasn't getting married, they'd be back there.'

The garage was about 32 feet wide and 50 feet long with 10-1/2-foot walls.

His neighbors, Donnia and John Wilkinson, have a house on Fishing Ford Road where they're moving. They have a cattle farm at Madison, Ala. She works at a school's physical education department in Alabama and has a website for her photography service with more pictures of the fire at