GARBER, Okla. - The quick thinking of a man delivering newspapers saved a family home - and possibly their lives - in rural Oklahoma early Monday.
Frank Hakel was taking bundles of the Enid News and Eagle to rural newspaper carriers about 12:30 a.m. when he noticed a bright light in the distance. The light turned out to be a burning house on Main Street in Garber, a city of about 825 people 70 miles north of Oklahoma City.
Hakel got closer to find the structure nearly completely gone. He noticed embers drifting toward another house nearby. Hakel, who lives about 20 miles away in Enid, didn't know if anyone was in the darkened house but decided to take no chances.
He knocked on the door and rousted a family with four children - a girl and three boys. Their father moved the family van - at that point covered in ash - to give his children a place to take refuge outside.
The fire was the first of two in unoccupied houses in the same area Monday. The second was reported about 10:30 a.m. The state fire marshal is investigating both, said Garfield County Undersheriff Jerry Niles.
Hakel has held a number of jobs in the News & Eagle's circulation department, most recently as an independent contractor who substitutes on delivery routes. Circulation manager Brad Nulph said he is proud of Hakel’s alert thinking.
“The grandmother of the family next door called us and wanted Frank to know the family really appreciated his quick actions,” said Nulph. “The heat from the fire was so hot, it melted the blinds. She wanted to express her heartfelt thanks.”