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Mid-Day House Fire In Tuxedo Park


No injuries, but Miller family home on Fairview Avenue is a complete loss


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An unidentified firefighter prepares to douse flames that engulf a home Tuesday afternoon on Fairview Avenue in Webster Groves. Diana Linsley. (click for larger version)

August 10, 2017
 
Amy Miller gasped, then doubled over and cried as she watched dozens of firefighters battle the flames that destroyed her family's three-story home in Webster Groves Tuesday afternoon.

 
No one in the Miller family – Amy and Justin Miller and their children, two-year-old twins, two elementary school-age daughters and a son who is in the military – was home when the fire broke out at their house at 720 Fairview Ave. in the Tuxedo Park neighborhood at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 8.

 
Amy Miller and the four younger children had been at the Saint Louis Zoo, and Justin Miller was out of town. The family's dog Millie was in the house, but was rescued by a neighbor before emergency crews arrived.

 
"I was sitting in my house and I saw a big, black plume of smoke," said Karla Armbruster, who lives directly across the street from the Millers. "I ran out of the house and it (the Miller's house) was engulfed in flames ... it just went up so fast. By the time I got outside another neighbor had already called 9-1-1 and rescued the dog."

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Neighbors, family members and friends gather Tuesday afternoon to console Amy Miller in front of her family's home. Diana Linsley. (click for larger version)

 
Nine fire departments and dozens of firefighters worked hours battling the blaze. Flames were seen coming from every window of the home, and smoke was visible for miles. Authorities have not yet determined where the fire started in the home or what caused it.

 
"It's still under investigation, but it's going to be difficult to determine the cause due to the extent of damage to the structure," Webster Groves Fire Department Assistant Chief Tom Yohe said.

 
Fire departments from the cities of Webster Groves, Rock Hill, Shrewsbury, Brentwood, Maplewood, Richmond Heights, Clayton, Crestwood and Affton responded to the two-alarm fire, according to Yohe.

 
Several streets surrounding Fairview Avenue were closed to traffic. Firefighters were still dousing the home with water more than an hour and a half after the fire started, and crews were on scene until 9 p.m. Tuesday, Yohe said.

 
Although some residents watching the scene unfold suspected firefighters may have had an issue with low water pressure in the hoses, Yohe said that wasn't the case.

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Justin and Amy Miller with the couple's five children. The Miller family lost their home to a fire on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 8. (click for larger version)

 
"We had water on that fire very quickly," he said. "Within minutes of arriving we had 500 gallons of water a minute flowing on that fire," he said. "At the height of the fire we had established three independent water supplies and had over 2,000 gallons of water a minute flowing on the fire. What seems chaotic to the general public is choreographed for us."

A Community Effort

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The Miller family lost their home, and most of their belongings following Tuesday's blaze. Diana Linsley. (click for larger version)
 
Friends and neighbors immediately rallied around the Millers.

 
"We're heartbroken," neighbor Janice Schmidt said. "We're a very close block and we all know each other."

 
Children in the neighborhood set up lemonade stands late Tuesday afternoon to start raising money for the Millers. The family's church community, The Gathering, set up a GoFundMe campaign that raised nearly $21,000 in less than 24 hours following the fire. The Gathering is also collecting gift cards for the family.

 
"Everyone in the family is safe, but they lost their home and most of their belongings," the campaign page notes.

 
Contributions to the GoFundMe campaign can be made online at www.gofundme.com/millerfamilyemergencysupport.

 
Gift cards can be mailed or dropped off to The Gathering's office at 2001 S. Hanley Road, Suite 450, St. Louis, Mo. 63144.

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