A welcome-home barbecue for a Govans serviceman back from Army duty in Saudi Arabia ended with his relatives running from their backyard last night to avoid a shower of glass from windows exploding in their burning house.
The three-alarm fire at the Beaumont Street home of Army Spc. James T. Hawkins, 27, started at 7:34 p.m. as about 20 friends and relatives of the Desert Storm veteran were gathered to pick steamed crabs and eat hamburgers.
"One of my friends walked by and said: 'It's a fire,' " said Bettye Cain Blaize, 39, a guest at the cookout.
Mrs. Blaize ran into the kitchen to call the fire department but was forced out, the receiver still in her hand, by flames engulfing the room.
Inside the house were James Hawkins, 48, the serviceman's father, and Terry Hawkins, 21, who was taking a shower.
Terry Hawkins jumped naked from the second story of the wood-frame shingled house and was cut and bruised. He was the only person injured in the fire, which was brought under control at 9:26 p.m.
Family members told investigators that the fire could have started in a window air conditioner on the first floor. Investigators believe that the fire moved to the first-floor walls and up to the second floor.