ROYAL CENTER — Pat Doughty fought back tears as she described the few possessions firefighters had brought out after dousing a blaze at her home.
Doughty, who with her husband, Frank, has lived at 210 W. North St. in Royal Center for 23 years, returned Wednesday to find smoke pouring from the eaves of her one and a half story home.
Holding a photograph of her mother, now deceased, Pat Doughty said the print was one of a few that firefighters had given her in a frame they'd retrieved from the burning house.
"I don't even know where they found them," Pat Doughty said.
Firefighters were called to the smoking house between 12:30 and 1 p.m. Wednesday, according to Royal Center firefighter Craig Breedlove, president of the department and officer in charge at the scene. They arrived to find fire consuming the interior of the house.
Pat Doughty's car was parked in front of the house, but firefighters determined she wasn't in the residence. Her husband and daughter were both at work and her 5-year-old grandson Jaxon was at school.
Pat's daughter Heidi Doughty found out through a neighbor about the fire.
"I thought she was kidding," said Heidi Doughty, 24. "But she was like, 'No. I'm serious.'" After talking with the neighbor, Heidi Doughty called Pat Doughty to tell her, too.
Pointing an upstairs window — with the glass broken out and a firefighter's ladder leading up to it — she said it was her bedroom.
"It was my home," added Heidi Doughty. "It was the only place I ever lived."
The house suffered extensive damage, meaning fire personnel haven't yet determined what ignited the blaze. It took firefighters about an hour to get it under control and about another half-hour to put out small flames. No injuries were reported in connection to the fire.
"Best we can tell, the heavy damage is mostly in the center of the house," Breedlove said, but that could be due to the "chimney effect" of the staircase there.
As Pat Doughty gathered with family members in the back yard, she said they would probably be staying with her brother in the aftermath.
"Everybody's OK and everything else can be replaced," she said.
Royal Center Fire Department was assisted by Cass County Fire District No. 1, New Waverly Fire Department, Lucerne Volunteer Fire Department and Star City Volunteer Fire Department.
Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151. Twitter: @PharosSME