Lottie home destroyed by fire when impaired driver runs off road
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
An Atmore restaurant manager, his wife and their 3-year-old child are trying to put their lives back together after a Lottie man, charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, ran his vehicle off a rural road and triggered a fire that sent the family’s home up in flames.
Chris Stephens, who manages the upscale Gather restaurant in Atmore, and his family — wife Kim Hankins and 3-year-old daughter Heron — were not injured in the February 25 blaze but lost all their possessions.
The destructive fire reportedly started when another Lottie resident, later identified as 63-year-old Burt Alan Wasdin of a Lottie Road address, drove his Chrysler 300 off Redtown Road and into the yard of the home, which years ago operated as Lottie Grocery, or Dallas Taylor’s Store.
Wasdin’s vehicle slammed into a pickup and a car, reportedly pushing them into the abandoned gas pumps that remain on the property, which is owned by Stephens’s family and was reportedly uninsured. The resulting explosion set the home afire, and the blaze swept through the structure, which is located at Redtown Road’s junction with Jack Springs Road.
None of the home’s occupants were injured, and a scratched and bruised Wasdin was able to escape his vehicle when Stephens went to his aid. Fire departments from Lottie, Rabun, Stockton and Bay Minette responded in a futile effort to save the dwelling.
Alabama State Troopers arrested Wasdin at the scene and charged him with DUI-alcohol. He was released from the Baldwin County Jail February 26 after a $1,000 bond was posted.
Friends of the family have started a GoFundMe account to help replace some of the personal items lost in the fire, including both vehicles, most of their shoes and clothing, all of the daughter’s books and toys, and the new furniture and supplies they had bought for the baby they are expecting in late June.
According to the text accompanying the GoFundMe account, Stephens also grew and sold organic, gourmet mushrooms as a side business. All his inventory and tools, reportedly valued at “several thousand dollars,” were lost in the fire.