Blaze destroys home, wedding dress survives
When Kellie Dolan saw the house at Trojan Street and Avenue C, she knew nothing inside could have been saved. The fire that started at about 9:45 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, got into the attic early, Fire Chief Scott Mack said. It kept 11 Port Aransas volunteer firfi.ghters and four pieces of equipment on the scene until early Thursday, making sure the fire was finally out.
Gary McDonough, who had been living in the house, said he was not at home at the time of the fire. None of the firfi.ghters was injured in putting the fire out. A deputy state fire marshal is trying to discover how the fire started, but no report is expected for weeks.
By the time Dolan got into the house, in which she has an interest, she had to shovel her way down to the old cedar chest that had stored lots of memorabilia. The chest had belonged to her mother, Patricia Dolan, and held the dress in which Patricia had married William Dolan back in 1957 - the same dress Kellie Dolan had been married in in 1978.
Dolan carried a key to the chest on her key ring, but she had to pry it open because of the warping.
Inside, almost as good as new, were the wedding dress, some photos and even some candles, which didn't even melt.
"It was like a miracle," said Dolan.
Mack said the fire was bad enough that Port Aransas firfi.ghters appealed to the Aransas Pass Fire Department for help through a mutual aid contract. The Aransas Pass department responded with a pumper-engine and three firfi.ghters.
Dolan said her mother bought the cedar chest before her marriage in 1957. She, Kellie, wore the same dress at her wedding, she said.
The chest, made by the Lane Company in Alta Vista, Calif., had been handed down along with the dress.
Dolan credited workmanship on the chest with saving her memorabilia. The joints are put together with what are known as sliding dovetails, which require no nails for a secure joint. While the chest is charred all around the outside and around the opening for the lid, no burn marks were visible in the interior.
An air pressure lock in the bottom of the chest could also have been instrumental in saving the contents, Dolan said. The lock is designed to allow air to expand to the outside of the chest without allowing more air into the interior.
Last year was a particularly bad one for Dolan: She lost her stepmother and her father, both to cancer, in September. With the house fire, this year promised to be nearly as bad.
However, she is encouraged by being able to save the dress, candles, and other items from the fire.
The chest and dress are being aired out in Dolan's front yard.
"It's like a miracle," she repeated.