Fireworks cost woman her home, and almost her cat, in Fourth of July blaze last year


CLARKSVILLE, TN (@CLARKSVILLE NOW) – When most people were out celebrating the Fourth of July last year, one Clarksville woman was rushing home after a series of phone calls alerting her that her home was up in flames.

Debra Butts, a property manager at 4rentproperties and owner of a branch of Keller Williams-Debra Butts & Associates, said that while enjoying some family time on the lake in Alabama, her phone began ringing. People were telling her it looked like the forest behind her house was on fire.

A house on Sequoia Lane burns on July 4, 2021. (Michael Rios, CFR, contributed)

“My house burned to the ground, and my daughter, husband, and myself lost everything,” she said.

Butts said after a period where investigators tried to discover the cause, it was finally determined that a stray firework was the culprit. “Fireworks are what started and caused the fire,” she said. “One reignited.”

Butts said her family didn’t even shoot fireworks. “There is just no way to know, however, they found fireworks in the backyard.”

But where was the cat?

As the Butts family loaded up for the five-hour drive home from Alabama, they worried about the only family member still in their home: Goliath the cat.

“I kept asking the fireman to find my cat,” she said. “They said my cat perished.”

Butts arrived at the remains of her home and said she and her daughter walked near the rubble, calling his name. “I figured out he was hiding in an eave under the roof,” she said.

“I told the firefighters there I was going in to get my cat, and he told me not to go through the rubble – it was still smoldering and dangerous,” she said.

“One firefighter suited up and was right beside me helping move debris to get to him,” she said. “The whole fire department was cheering.”

Debbie Butts with her cat, Goliath, after a fire destroyed her Sequoia Lane home on July 4, 2021. (Contributed)

Butts finally rescued Goliath, and her mobile vet responded immediately.

“She immediately gave him an IV and realized he had heat damage to his nose and the lining of his throat,” she said. “She gave him IV treatment for 10 days and nursed him back to health.”

“If you saw him today, you wouldn’t know anything ever happened to him,” she said. “In the darkest days, he was a ray of light.”

Butts says now when people say cats have nine lives, she believes it. “He was named Goliath and it was purely sarcastic,” she said.

After somehow escaping a housefire that started last Fourth of July due to a stray firework, Goliath is now a happy healthy kitty with one very grateful owner.

Be careful with fireworks

If there is one thing Butts wants to caution residents who launch fireworks about, it’s simply that fireworks are re-ignitable.

“I had a neighbor call me the other day. She had gone to Sam’s and purchased fireworks. She sent me the package and it said this product is re-ignitable,” Butts said. “I didn’t know that, and I don’t think the general public knows that.”

In Clarksville, fireworks may be exploded, fired, shot or set off inside the city limits from July 1 to July 5 only between the hours of 6 pm and 10 pm

Additionally, no person may ignite or discharge fireworks within or throw any articles of fireworks from a motor vehicle or throw any ignited article of fireworks into or at a motor vehicle, or at or near any person or group of people.

Scott Beaubien, Clarksville Police Spokesman, told Clarksville Now that misdemeanor citations will be issued to anyone caught breaking the rules.

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