According to an incident report by Highland officer Bryan Buchanan, he saw a large, bright orange glow in the sky as he was passing Century Auto on the four lane in Highland. The officer said he could see what appeared to be the roof of a home on fire through the woods and immediately called central dispatch to have the fire department paged. Buchanan then went to the fire, which was on Sundown Road and said he could only see the blaze in the roof and said it was about a ten foot wide section around the chimney and extending about the same distance on the other side.
Buchanan recognized the vehicles because Pardue is a member of the city council, so the officer said he knew the couple was home. He said he then began beating on the door and yelling to try to wake them. Just prior to kicking the door open, he heard their voices as they came to the door. Wanda Pardue said she and her husband were able to grab a few clothes, her purse, a cat and a dog and get out, thanks to Buchanan.
Buchanan's report indicates at the time the couple was awakened, they were not aware of the extent of the rapidly spreading fire. Both Buchanan and Wanda Purdue said a few seconds after Buchanan shut off the door to prevent the air from spreading the fire, the roof collapsed and the entire end of the house was fully engulfed.
Buchanan said Highland firefighter Stephen Davis was the first one to the scene and promptly checked to ensure the propane tank was off to the home and assisted with the fire. Mrs. Pardue indicated her husband only had on a thin pair of long johns and Officer Buchanan offered his coat.
The Pardue's were very thankful to Buchanan, and said had it not been for his keen observations, the couple may have not gotten out of the home. Despite losing two cats in the blaze, the couple indicated they were lucky to be alive and very thankful for the response from the Highland Fire Department, Highland first responders, Cherokee Village and Sharp County Sheriff's Department, as well as their neighbors.
Mrs. Pardue said they are currently waiting on the minimal insurance they had on the home and are still undecided as to whether they will rebuild or purchase a modular home. The couple is currently staying with Robert and Nancy Dollar.
Pardue said she is very thankful to everyone for their help, saying "We are just blessed to have good friends. It makes you appreciate what we have."
Anyone wishing to help the Pardues may make a monetary donation at any First National Banking Company location, where a fund has been set up in the family's name.