It was supposed to be a peaceful Christmas morning for U.S. Navy veteran James Orander.
But as Orander was celebrating the holiday this year with his son and grandchild near his home at the Pine Oaks Mobile Home Park in Burton, he got the call.
Orander’s home — full of all his possessions, his medications and his three dogs — was engulfed in flames.
“I was just flying down that road right when I heard,” Orander remembered. “I was worried about my dogs.”
When he arrived, Orander found that his landlord had run into the burning home to rescue his three dogs — one American bullmastiff and two mastiff mixes.
But the 60-year-old veteran also saw that his home was covered in smoke as firefighters from the Burton Fire District worked to put out the flames.
The firefighters had arrived at the home, located on Joe Frazier Drive, about 10 a.m. Christmas morning to find heavy smoke and flames coming out of a rear bedroom window, the fire district reported.
Firefighters extinguished the flames in under 15 minutes, but the fire had reached the roof, making the operation difficult. Firefighters were at the residence for more than three hours extinguishing smoldering embers, the district reported.
All the while, Orander watched as everything he owned was ruined by the smoke and flames.
“It was real bad,” Orander said. “I lost all the Christmas presents for my grandbabies. I lost everything: my computers, my clothes, my home.”
The fire was discovered by one of Orander’s family members, who had stopped at the home to pick up presents and noticed smoke coming from the door.
The fire was confined to one side of the home, but the residence suffered heavy heat and smoke damage throughout, the fire district reported.
“It was a total loss,” property manager and Orander’s neighbor Paula Peters said. “We’re trying to do what we can to help James get at least his medications back and help him get a place to live.”
No one was injured in the fire, but Orander felt like it was a close call, he said.
“I had just left about an hour and half before,” Orander said. “The fire was in my bedroom. So I’m happy no one got hurt.”
The fire is still under investigation, but fire officials say they believe it was unintentional. Orander said he thinks the cause was an electrical outlet in his bedroom.
Orander, who has worked for the Navy for some 40 years, continues to work the night shift maintaining aircraft at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, he said.
Orander said he plans to stay with his son while he tries to find a new place to live.
“I need to find me a home, I guess,” Orander said. “That’s all I can do now.”