Fire destroys former SCS superintendent’s Columbiana home
Published 11:49 am Monday, November 23, 2015
By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer
COLUMBIANA – Former Shelby County Schools Superintendent Evan Major and his wife Linda knew something was wrong when they awoke to the sound of smoke alarms in their Columbiana home in the early morning hours of Nov. 23.
At about 4 a.m., the couple determined a fire had started and evacuated their 112-year-old home on Mildred Street before calling the Columbiana Fire Department.
“We were both still asleep, and sometime after 4, we just kind of came awake,” Evan Major, 73, said as he watched Columbiana firefighters battle the blaze from a neighbor’s driveway at the time. “She (Linda) said, ‘I smell smoke.'”
Evan said they saw flames by the air conditioning unit, where they think the fire originated.
“By the time the firemen got here, it was pretty well involved,” Evan said. “They’ve worked diligently, and they’ve done a superior job trying to contain it.”
Firefighters were still trying to extinguish flames as of 9 a.m.
“We’ve been pouring water on this thing for four hours,” Evan said, adding the structure had already sustained a “tremendous amount of smoke and water damage.” “You stand here and watch your life work go up. It’s hard to watch.”
Lisa Bevard, who lives across the street from the Majors, said she was walking her dog outside a little after 4 a.m. and heard glass breaking at their house.
“I just thought it was a limb breaking,” Bevard said. “(Firefighters) have been working on it since 4:30 this morning and have just been unable to contain it.”
The couple’s grown children, Fred Major and Melonie Sturm, along with numerous other family members, friends and neighbors, gathered nearby to offer clothing, supplies and words of support to the couple.
“Columbiana is taking good care of them and will take good care of them,” Sturm said.
Sturm said the family celebrated Thanksgiving at her parents’ home the day before the fire.
“The whole family was here yesterday,” she said. “It puts a new perspective on Thanksgiving.”
Though the couple grabbed several items before they evacuated, and firefighters saved some pictures and other memorabilia, the fire likely destroyed many family heirloom antiques, Evan said.
“There will be some things that are salvageable, (but) there is going to be some tremendous loss,” he said. “The original structure was built in 1903. We’ve renovated it and added onto it over the years.”
With tears in her eyes, Shelby County Board of Education Vice President Peg Hill shared memories of the couple hosting “many a gathering” at their home.
“It just breaks your heart,” Hill said. “They are the backbone of the community.”
Evan served two terms as Shelby County Schools superintendent from 1998-2007 and worked in some capacity for the school system for 41 years.
“They’re pillars of our community,” Bevard said. “We all know them and love them.”
When thinking about how the couple escaped the fire unharmed, Evan said “amen.”
“The good Lord was taking care of us,” he said. “The sun came up this morning, and we’ll be OK.”