On the frozen morning after Christmas in 2012, Oklahoma City fire Maj. Tim Long navigated icy roads to make it to work at Station 30 on the south side of Lake Hefner.
Long arrived about 6:25 a.m., and the first fire alarm of the day went off about five minutes later, at 6:30. There was a house fire at 2816 Dorchester Drive.
The temperature was 13 degrees. The wind chill was below zero, and north winds were howling at 30 mph. The Grand Boulevard bridge over the Lake Hefner Parkway was slick and snowy. From the top of the bridge, black smoke from the fire could be seen about a mile away.
“We could tell there was a tremendous amount of fire,” Long said.
In freezing weather, hoses freeze and roofs are icy and slippery. It is tough for firefighters to keep their footing. Flames were shooting out every door and window of the house.
Sgt. Derreck Fraysur, 41, a seven-year veteran of the fire department, saw toys strewn across the frozen front yard, along with four-wheel ATVs. He figured children were inside.
He was right. Killed in the fire were four siblings — Natalie Leon, 8, Samantha Leon, 7, Matthew Zackary Leon, 5, and Kara Leon, 3 — and their mother, Jeanine Bonnet, 28.
“Any time you show up on something like that and you see toys in the yard and things like that,” Fraysur said, “it kind of gives us more sense of urgency.”
Fraysur was part of the team that put out the flames and went upstairs, where the victims were discovered.
The children were the same ages as his. Shaken by the deaths, he called his wife afterward to check on his own kids. He thought about the victims opening their gifts just the day before.
“I'd already made sure I had smoke detectors in my house, but the kids were the same ages as my kids, so it kind of heightened that awareness for me,” he said.
The house had no natural gas heating. Long said the cause of the fire was determined to be a space heater that was too close to a couch.
That detail of the fire investigation has led to a lawsuit in Oklahoma County.