Fire destroys home; none injured

By S. Brady Calhoun News Herald Writer 747-5075 / bcalhoun@pcnh.com

PANAMA CITY Kathryn Miller was hugging her daughter, Kaylee Jenkins, 14, tight while firefighters’ flashlights popped behind them in smoky mirrors.

Both of them were crying as Miller, 44, whispered fiercely in Jenkins’ ear.

"It will be all right. I promise," she said. "This is just a house."

Miller’s three-bedroom, twobath home at 1009 LaPaloma Terrace caught fire at 6:51 p.m. Friday night. Firefighters from the Panama City Fire Department put out the blaze in about 20 minutes.

Fire officials said they didn’t know what started the fire but they doubted it was arson. Chief Austin Andrews said at least 60 percent of the home was destroyed.

After Jenkins left to stay with a family member, Miller lighted a cigarette and tried to assess the damage. Firefighters were working so she couldn’t get in the house. She worried about the Christmas gifts — new clothes and makeup for Jenkins.

"Maybe all her stuff is not gone," Miller said.

There was a piano — a family heirloom.

There was a 5-month-old puppy named Buster, who firefighters had not located by press time Friday.

"He’s gone," Miller admitted to herself. "We usually put him out before we leave but I guess she (Jenkins) thought it was too cold." He was a sweet playful dog, she added.

"This is bad," Miller said.

But at least Jenkins and Miller weren’t in the house when the fire started. Instead, they were having dinner together at Barnhill’s Buffet, where Miller is a manager.

Miller was still hoping that mementos from her last gig could be salvaged. From 1989 until 1997, Miller owned the Bayview Cafe at the St. Andrews Marina.

"It had the best original music in town," Miller said. Miller kept pictures and recordings of every musician who played on her stage. "Actually, the loss of that (the cafe) was more devastating than this," Miller said.

Then Miller tossed her cigarette away and repeated Friday’s mantra.