Another frigid night is on tap for south Mississippi. Which means space heaters and fireplaces will be working overtime again. And if you're not careful, you'll be at risk for a potential disaster.
On cold nights like this, when the thermometer will be stuck in the 20s, you're told that if you go to sleep with your fireplace still burning, you're asking for trouble. The Malletts learned that lesson in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Charred wood underneath a fireplace was still smoldering from an overnight fire at Debbie Mallett's house.
"I thank God we're all alive. It could have been a disaster," Mrs. Mallett said.
While most of the family was asleep, smoke from the fireplace filled the two story home. At the time, the fireplace was the only source of heat inside the newly built structure.
Mrs. Mallett said, "It was scary."
Mallett's son Josh got a late night phone call, and rushed to the burning Highway 15 property.
"My brother and my brother in law were out there coughing on the ground, because they had just come from under the house," Josh remembered.
To make matters worse, two hoses outside the house were both frozen. While they were being bent so the ice clogging them could break apart, Mrs. Mallett ran to a FEMA trailer and got a fire extinguisher. The thawing hoses and the extinguisher kept the fire at bay until the East Harrison County Volunteer Fire Department arrived.
"I never would have dreamed it would happen. I mean, I had the screen, I had everything there that was supposed to be there," Mrs. Mallett said.
The morning after the small fire, Josh Mallett realized how lucky his family was.
"Could have lost my mom, my sister, my brother, my brother in law. But we didn't. We got, I'd like to say lucky, but thank God he was looking out for us," he said.
The Malletts have been building their new home for about two years. And they've often used the fireplace as a temporary heater. Ironically, the air conditioning man showed up Thursday morning and turned on their unit, so the house could get permanent heat.