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Blaze engulfs Riceboro home
LL Rice Fire
Firefighters work to save the home Monday of Melvin and Clara Dudley of Riceboro. The couple lost everything and is now trying to rebuild their lives. - photo by Photo by Lewis Levine



Melvin and Clara Dudley had just dropped by Monday afternoon to console Bishop Bobby Kindley who lost his home Feb. 28 to a fire.
As the couple stopped to put gas in the car, a phone call from a Liberty County sheriff’s deputy delivered the news which hit the 57 year old disabled laborer like a ton of bricks.
“Mr. Dudley your house is on fire,” said the voice on the other end.
When the Dudleys arrived, they found their home of 25 years engulfed in flames, as firefighters from Riceboro, Midway, Lake George and the Eastern District attempted to contain the fire which reached several feet in the air from large holes in the roof.
The fire, which took dozens of fire fighters over an hour to bring under control, destroyed the home and all of its contents.
Melvin Dudley, who is being housed in a Hinesville hotel, said, “We lost everything in the fire. We really don’t know what were going to do because we didn’t have insurance.”
Dudley said he had to let his insurance lapse because when he became disabled over a year ago from his job with Hobart, Inc. the reduction in income made it impossible to continue the policy.
Liberty County Fire Coordinator James Ashdown, who went to the scene of the fire on Tuesday to conduct an investigation, said the fire may have been caused by a vent from a wood-burning stove set up in a den at the rear of the home.
“The way it was vented, it ran into a block in the chimney which had been stuffed with paper bags the mortar came in while they were building the chimney,” he said.
According to Ashdown, the paper smoldered for hours until it ignited into flames, burned the walls and spread throughout the house.
Ashdown emphasized the wood stove had been off while the Dudleys were away.
Prior to leaving the house, Ashdown said, the couple had taken a nap.
“This could have turned out real bad if the fire ignited while they were asleep,” he said
Riceboro Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Dennis Fitzgerald said when fire fighters arrived on the scene smoke and flames were so heavy it made entrance into the residence impossible at first.
“We tried to set up a line of attack, but had a hard time because of the difficulty seeing due to heavy smoke,” he said.
Dudley hopes to rebuild or buy a mobile home to put on the property but realizes without insurance money to help it will be an uphill battle.
“All I can do is take it one day at a time,” he said.
Donations can be made at:
Calvary Apostolic Temple
2975 South Coastal Highway
For more information, call 884-4073 or 884-7307
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