Couple warns others after fire caused by bottle rocket destroys home

Dotti Byerly and her husband William lost their home when an illegal firework hit and patio and started a fast-spreading fire.
Published: Jul. 5, 2023 at 11:10 AM EDT
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GLENDALE, Ariz. (KPHO/Gray News) - Fireworks have become a big part of the Fourth of July celebrations, but first responders are reminding people of the dangers.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 19,500 fires are started by fireworks each year. An elderly couple who lived in Glendale, Arizona, knows that reality all too well.

“It has really been hell. Just about the time I think I’m over it, I’ll remember something that I lost,” Dotti Byerly said.

Byerly said she and her husband William Byerly heard the fireworks on July 3, 2022, but never expected what happened next.

“He came in and yelled get out, that the house is on fire,” she said.

Byerly explained that her husband was in his man cave in the backyard at the time when he saw smoke.

“He saw smoke, and he went into the garage and looked up, and the garage was in flames,” Byerly said.

The couple and their daughter had lived in their home for 26 years. Byerly explained that a bottle rocket, an aerial firework that is illegal in Glendale, hit their patio. It started the fire that quickly spread.

They escaped with only the clothes they had on.

“Sitting out here with them watching it burn was, yeah, it’s not a good thing,” their neighbor, Verlin White, said.

The sound of fireworks has a new meaning for both of them.

“Yeah, I’ll be home watching, waiting, making sure it doesn’t happen to me,” White said.

The Phoenix Fire Department is urging people to take the dangers fireworks pose seriously. Many of their calls come from people who’ve thrown them away, not realizing they’re not entirely out.

“Have a bucket of water, a hose and an open area on concrete kind of like a platform area, where you can light these fireworks off and there’s no brush, no dry vegetation where it can catch fire,” Captain Todd Keller said.

Byerly also had a message for those partaking in the holiday tradition.

“Please realize what you’re dealing with. It’s fun. They’re beautiful. You want to watch them, but let someone who knows what they’re doing that’s a professional do that,” she said.

No one was ever charged in connection with the fire. Byerly said Glendale police narrowed it down to four or five homes but could never determine where the bottle rocket came from.