SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – “I’ve been a dispatcher on and off for about 20 years,” said Barbara Hughes.
Hughes, a Suffolk, Virginia resident, says it’s a job she lives for.
“You never know what to expect.”
Hughes found that out early Thursday morning while at work at the Emergency Communications Center.
A fire call came in just before 1:30 a.m. She transmitted an emergency call to crews for a home on Indian Trial engulfed in flames.
Hughes knew the fire was too close to home.
“I happen to notice the name of the person who called the fire in and I recognized it,” Hughes said. “She was saying it was behind her house. Well I’m directly behind her house.”
As the crews began to arrive, Hughes’ fear became a reality.
“I was telling my coworkers, ‘That’s my house.’ Then I kind of wasn’t sure,” Hughes said. “I was wishy washy whether it was my house or the house in front of me or maybe it was just flames from a mile down the road. But I felt it. I felt it that it was my house … I dispatched my own fire to my house.”
The home is a total loss.
Hughes was left with nothing but the clothes she wore to work.
“Everything is gone,” Hughes said. “I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know where to go from here.”
Hughes also lost her three dogs in the fire: Izzy, Kodi and Riley.
“There was just flames shooting up from my house and I knew my dogs weren’t going to be there,” Hughes added. “There was no saving them.”
The woman who has helped hundreds of emergency callers over the years now finds herself on the other side. This time, though, it’s the community helping the dispatcher.
“I’m one who would give the shirt off my back to anybody, and for somebody to do that for me, it’s really touching in my heart,” Hughes said.
Fire investigators say the cause of the fire has not been determined, but they can tell it wasn’t arson.
A post by Suffolk police included a link to a GoFundMe that was created to assist Hughes.