Staff Photo: John Bohn Gwinnett firefighters work to extinguish a house fire in the 600 block of Lake Drive in unincorporated Snellville Monday afternoon. The home and two outbuildings on the property were destroyed. No injuries were reported.
SNELLVILLE -- Wilma Graham, wearing nothing but a nightgown and gold polish on her toenails, watched her home burn down Monday.
Graham was alone and trying to take an afternoon nap in her family's rental home on Snellville's Norris Lake. She was twice stirred from bed by the smell of "burning wires," she said, only realizing it was coming from inside the second time.
By the time the blaze was done, the residence was, officially, a total loss. Graham, though, chose slightly different wording.
"God has always saved me," she said. "This is not the first time ... God is going to turn this into something awesome."
Gwinnett County firefighters were called to the roughly 90-acre lake -- which is just inside Gwinnett County lines -- just before 2 p.m. Monday. A police officer was actually the first to report the blaze on the 600 block of Lake Drive, and several 911 calls came shortly after, fire department spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge said.
When crews arrived, they found the home, a wooden shed and another metal outbuilding "engulfed in flames," Rutledge said. Three vehicles were also caught up in the blaze.
Rutledge called the incident "a tremendous firefight." Neighbor Patricia Pharris said flames were as high as 10 feet above the roofline.
Ironically, the family runs a portable fire extinguisher business out of the home.
"It was terrifying how quickly it went," Pharris said. "Just within a few minutes everything was in flames."
Fire investigators had not determined Monday if the blaze started inside the home or in one of the other structures on the property. The cause was listed as undetermined and under investigation.
"When I came back I looked down and I could see fire through the dining room window off of the deck," Graham said.
Graham lived in the home with her husband, son, grandson and three dogs. She and all three dogs escaped unharmed. The others were not home at the time of the fire.
A hazardous materials team was on the scene Monday to prevent any possible runoff into the lake, Rutledge said.