Capp’s Taxidermy survives fire

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The glass in the front doors is smeared with black smoke markings. All the lights are off. The room smells like ash and a piece of pink plastic tape forbids customers from entering the front door.

The front display room at Capp’s Taxidermy off Highway 43 has, to put it mildly, seen better days. But according to Jane Capp, the Saturday morning blaze that caused the damage could have very easily caused an awful lot more.

“The Lord was with us,” she said. “There were no customer items damaged. It was all our personal items, the stuff we have on display. A lot of it will be saved…If Don hadn’t heard that alarm go off, we’d have lost the whole building.”

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Don is Jane’s husband Don Capp, who had altered his usual schedule to come in and get some work done that Saturday morning. While cleaning up in the business’s workshop, Capp heard a smoke alarm going off in the display room and immediately called 9-1-1 to report the blaze. He then grabbed a fire extinguisher and waded into the smoke to put out the fire.

Jane says that on most Saturdays, in most ways, Don never would have heard the alarm in time to save the business.

“He hadn’t worked on Saturdays the last several weeks,” she said. “And he had the broom out sweeping when he heard the alarm. He never sweeps…he always uses the vacuum. If he had been vacuuming, he might not have heard it.”

The fire had been started, it turned out, by a short in an AC/DC power converter used to power a waterfall display in the Capp’s Taxidermy front room. Although Jane says the converter was connected to a surge protector, it appears power fluctuations from Saturday’s storm prompted the short and ignited the blaze.

Capp’s employee Michael Pope also works with the Demopolis Fire Department, and was riding with the first truck to arrive after Don had called 9-1-1. Much to Michael’s surprise, by the time the firefighters arrived on scene, Don had managed to snuff out the flames by himself with the business’ 10-pound fire extinguisher.

“From what I could see with the smoke, I don’t know how he did it,” Pope said. “There was no fire left when we got here. We were expecting to do a lot of work. But Don had done it all. I was very impressed…It’s incredible he stayed in there. He showed a lot of bravery.”

Pope points out, however, that it’s usually not a good idea to fight fires yourself when there’s that much smoke being produced.

“I would not suggest it to everyone else,” he said. “More people die of smoke inhalation than they do from the fire itself…Don was trying to protect his livelihood.”

According to Pope, Don had said afterwards he’d panicked. But Don’s precise actions–calling 9-1-1, grabbing the extinguisher, fighting the blaze–were not the actions of a man who’s lost his head.

“He said he panicked,” Pope said, “but for him to do what he did, he wasn’t panicking.”