Caraway fire destroys 30 years of collected items

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It was a sad day for Gary Fletcher as he came home to find 30 years of items he had collected and restored up in flames.

Gary Fletcher lost years of collectibles, tools, and equipment in last week's fire.

The fire call came in on Monday afternoon, April 12, from a neighbor. Fletcher's 60x70 foot shop, located just outside Caraway, was on fire.

"By the time the fire department arrived, it was up in flames," Fletcher said.

Bill Foster arrived even before the fire fighters and said there was no way to get anything out. He said the fire was blazing in top of the 50 foot pine trees along side of the shed.

The 60x70 foot shop and contents destroyed by fire included several vehicles, antiques, tools and much more.

"The firemen did a wonderful job of keeping the fire from the house and saved three trailers full of collectibles," Fletcher said.

Fletcher built the shop in 1988 to have a place to work and keep all of the antiques and items he enjoyed preserving for future generations.

So many of the items lost were one of a kind, antiques, and family heirlooms. He also lost tools, equipment, vehicles, lawn mowers and much more.

Fletcher has been a collector for 30 years. Being a truck driver, he would find antiques and old tools and bring them home from West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. It was a hobby he enjoyed.

"It was just so full of memories," Fletcher said. "My nephew helped me tar the roof of the shed in 1990. It took me five years to build the building working in my spare time and vacations."

Among the items lost was a trailer Fletcher and his dad built in 1995. The riding lawn mower that was on the trailer was also one his dad had brought him in 1965.

"Those things just can't be replaced," he said.

Fletcher enjoyed taking his antiques to tractor shows, festivals, Caraway Fourth of July celebration, and car shows. He had hoped to someday have a museum to display the items for people to enjoy.

Among the items destroyed were a 1992 Silverado, GEO 1999 work car, 1966 Chevrolet pick-up, 1963 Ford pick-up, 1953 Chevrolet 2-ton cab over truck, 1957 International, diesel 4x4 tractor with front end loader, Avery tractor, Little General Tractor, 1965 Cub Cadet, antique barn trailer, numerous antique tools, his grandmother's furniture, military collection, speed boat with a V-8 motor, four lawn mowers, old cotton picker, two antique refrigerators, two antique soda machines, Maytag motors, welders, fork lift, air compressors, torch, chain hoist and so much more.

Four antique bicycles including two Western flyers and a Fire Stone were destroyed. Fletcher had looked long and hard to find a bicycle like his first one he had at the age of six.

"It makes me sick," he said. "There are so many memories just gone. I wanted to save the things for the future generations. It is hard to see the reasoning. We don't think about it, but when I look at the rubble it made me think of the people in war zones who have to see this every day."

The smoke was seen as far away as Osceola.

Again Fletcher expressed his appreciation to the fire fighters for fighting such a hot fire and saving the 40 foot storage trailers.

"They did a good job," he said.

Fletcher and Foster started the clean up efforts on Wednesday but they have a big challenge in front of them.

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