Wylie neighbors rush to help family whose home caught on fire


ABILENE, Texas - The quick action by neighbors in Wylie helped prevent a house fire on New Year's Eve from turning much worse.

Joshua Howeth said his mom was in their garage Sunday morning a few minutes before seven when she smelled smoke.

"Like on this side of the street, you couldn't see anything because of the smoke," Howeth said. "But that side of the street was pretty clear."

He said there was a lot of smoke.

His mother rushed to the house of Donna Novil's in the 7000 block of Ruby Esther Circle, with Joshua right behind her.

They immediately saw the attic on fire. Howeth said he banged on their front door until the family woke up.

"Around the time the fire department arrived, we could see the flames coming out the side and the top of the attic," Howeth said.

Novil lived in the house with her two teenage children who attended Wylie High School, according to neighbors. However, all five of her children were home for the holidays. One was sleeping at a friend's house at the time. 

The Abilene Fire Department ruled the cause was "an improperly placed and unattended incense burner."

Fire officials told KTXS on Sunday the icy roads slowed down their response time. 

 "I don't think it was an unreasonable response time. Just in the moment it kind of slows things down," Howeth said. "So it seems a lot of time is going by when not a lot is."

Several neighbors said the Novils were living at the house on Ruby Ester Circle for about only two to three months. 

Howeth and his family understand what the Novils are going through. Not long ago they lost their home in a fire.

"Nobody knows what the family needs like the family." Howeth said.

Two funds have been set up to help the Novils get back on their feet. Below are the links to each one. 

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