SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A South Dakota father is hugging his family a little tighter after a fire broke out inside their Sioux Falls home Sunday night that sent him scrambling through the burning house to find his four children and dog.
Paul Wickham’s family had just gone to bed Sunday shortly after 11 p.m. when the unthinkable happened.
“I heard my wife screaming ‘there’s a fire, there’s a fire,” Paul Wickham said.
The fire was in the basement, where his four children all slept. Paul says he immediately grabbed the fire extinguisher and ran downstairs.
“The flames were jumping through the walls and through the stairs,” he said.
When he realized he couldn’t put it out, he began yelling and searching for his kids.
Thankfully they had a fire evacuation plan, and everyone made it out safely, including their 18-month-old Doberman, Spirit, but Paul didn’t know that at the time.
“I didn’t see anybody go out, I didn’t know who was where; my kids had just went to bed, so I went downstairs to get my kids,” Paul said.
The only one he couldn’t account for was Dixie.
So he says he did what any good father would do, go back in to find her, but that act of bravery could have been deadly.
“A big wall of flames came up through the bottom of the step, blocking my way out,” Paul said.
So he had no choice but to run through the flames to save his own life.
“You can see my beard is burnt up, it was down to here yesterday afternoon,” Paul said.
Paul also suffered minor burns to his hands and face and singed his eyebrows.
The Wickhams lost pretty much everything they own; their clothes, their beds and even their electronics. They’re thankful they still have each other, though, and to them their father is a hero.
“He thought that we weren’t going to get out, so he went down there and made sure we were all out and tried to get the fire out, very proud of him and that he got out safe,” 12-year-old James Wickham said.
“He went back inside, because he didn’t think I was out,” Dixie said.
Despite all they lost, Paul says it could have been worse.
“Had it been 20 minutes later, we are all heavy sleepers, you might not be talking to anyone right now,” Paul said.
Investigators haven’t pinpointed a cause yet. It remains under investigation.
The Wickhams are staying with family for now.
A GoFundMe page is being set up to help them out, NewsNation affiliate KELO-TV reported.