A charred hull in a truck stop parking lot is hard to recognize as a motorhome but it was home to Jim Hartman. He was traveling to St.Petersburg, Florida to start a new life and a new job until the fire destroyed everything.
“All my equipment for work, everything is gone,” says Hartman.
Ben Cranford had been behind the RV and noticed a fuel leak. By the time they pulled into the parking lot it was on fire. “We got his dog out. We got him out. We got his wallet. We tried to get his bike, something he said he worked 17 years to buy.”
Everything Hartman owned was inside that RV or on the trailer behind it.
“It seemed like forever,” says Cranford, “but I know it was 90 seconds and over half of the motor home was engulfed. In two or three minutes, it was over.”
Hartman didn’t let it go without a fight. His face and arms burned in the struggle. “That was him trying to get some things out of the RV,” says fire chief Tony Lovell. “It’s hot, extremely hot.”
After the fire was out and the smoke cleared, an amazing thing started happening. One person after another came up to Hartman to offer help, a hug, a meal, a place to stay.
That’s something that makes the mayor of a small town proud. “Most people in America are like that,” says Mayor Billy Middleton. “It’s really heartwarming.”
Hartman’s family has been contacted and while he and his dog Lobo figure out their next move strangers are doing what they can to make this part of his journey a little easier.
Hartman is an airbrush and tattoo artist. All of his equipment was lost in the fire. The Red Cross has made arrangements for a hotel for Hartman and his dog.