DACULA - Gwinnett firefighters, shed of their cumbersome gear and drinking Powerades, found little comfort under shady pines Friday in Dacula, where a two-story family home burned amid triple-digit air temperatures.
Not even white towels dipped in ice water brought relief.
"We go business as usual," said Lt. Thorsten Mims, a firefighter, his shirt drenched.
The 2825 Brookton Lane residence housed seven people, including five children. Investigators ruled the structure a complete loss after the towering fire was brought under control at 3:38 p.m.
Mary Young was home with her teenage son Friday when she noticed the interior temperature was "awfully hot," she said. A half-hour later, she stood baffled in the middle of her street, pointing to sunlight that poured in her roofless living room.
"I'm empty," Young said. "Kind of numb, you know."
Jacob Smith, 15, tried to help his mother put out what they thought was a deck fire, dumping bowls of water on backyard furniture, he said. But the smoke, they noticed, was billowing from the gutters overhead and was much too vigorous to deal with.
"I don't know what happened," said Smith. "I don't even know."
According to investigators, the fire originated at the back of the house in the area of the deck, though a specific cause could not be pinpointed Friday.
"The cause of the fire is still undetermined, but it does not appear suspicious at this time," said Gwinnett County Fire Department spokesman Lt. Thomas Rutledge.
Young's husband, John Young, had owned the home for 15 years, and it is insured, she said.
No injuries were reported, though the family's cat was missing for a while, alarming the family until the animal turned up later. The family dog, a Terrier-mix named Minnie, evacuated immediately.
Responders called an additional engine with extra personnel to help rotate Gwinnett Fire Station 17 firefighters, creating what's called a "rehab area" under the shady pines.
Rutledge said the American Red Cross was contacted to assist the displaced family. But Tiffany Woodward, a family friend in Dacula, insisted at the scene she had the family's temporary housing covered.
"I have no problem taking them in," Woodward said. "(They're) welcome to stay until they find something to do about this."