STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
The morning of March 12 started just like any other for Llano High School freshman Abby Machuga.
She awoke in her Llano home before her three younger siblings and was eating cereal. Her parents, Lisa and Frank Machuga, had left for work.
But when Abby thought she heard 9-year-old sister, Anna, yell, she went into the room they shared and made a startling discovery. It wasn’t Anna who was yelling.
“The wall was squealing,” Abby said.
A fire had broken out in the bedroom, causing the sound. Abby picked up her sister and quickly exited the house. She handed Anna the phone and told her to call their mother. Then, Abby hurriedly put out a flame on her shirt and headed back inside to get their brothers, Buddy, 13, and Denton, 12. Once the boys were out of the house, Abby returned inside to get the family’s dog and four cats.
Anna got in touch with their mother, Lisa, who told the girl to call 9-1-1. Then Lisa, who works in Kingsland, called her husband, Frank.
He raced home.
Though he got there before the Llano Volunteer Fire Department, he wanted to go much faster.
“The longest two-minute drive from work,” he said. “Abby had cleared the house of all but one cat. You have to leave one cat for the firemen to rescue.”
Firefighters did, in fact, save the other cat.
A tearful Anna recalled that the fire was 2 feet from where she was sleeping.
Her family wasn’t surprised at Abby’s actions that day.
“She’s been a hero just about as long as I’ve known her,” her dad said. “She snapped into action again on (that day) without even putting a bunch of thought into it. She did the right thing to get out. She did what she had to do. She stepped up.”
Throughout her life, Abby has “been something of a showman,” Frank said. He noted she’s been asked to do things at young ages that most children wouldn’t be able to handle, like singing the “Star Spangled Banner” at a baseball game when she was 7 in what her dad called “the best national anthem I’ve ever heard.”
Or cutting her long blond hair to donate to an organization that makes wigs for patients diagnosed with alopecia areata, a condition that causes them to lose their hair.
“She decided to share it and donate it,” Frank said.
“Without hesitation,” Lisa added. “She’s usually the kid at front center. That’s who you watch. She stands out, she always has, in a positive way.”
Frank said the belief is the fire was caused by an electrical issue. While all the drywall will have to be removed and all the windows replaced, the structure of the family home remains intact. The girls’ room, the origin of the fire, suffered the greatest damage.
“The house is going to be our house again,” he said. “It’ll take several months of building out, tearing out, and taking down to the studs. The entire interior of the house will be effectively remodeled.”
The family moved to Llano, the hometown of Frank’s mother, Estelene Schuessler, almost two years ago. Lisa said their neighbors introduced themselves then offered to wash what remained of their clothes after the fire.
The children could use more clothing. For those who wish to donate, the children’s sizes are as follows:
For those who want to donate clothes, here are the children’s sizes:
- Abby – women’s medium for shirts, pants size 6-8, and shoe size 11;
- Buddy – men’s medium, size 14-16 shirt, and shoe size 11;
- Denton – men’s small, size 12-14, and shoe size 8.5;
- Anna – girls medium, size 9-10, shoe size 5.
You may drop off donated clothing at these locations:
- Kelly Lowery, 1801 Oatman St. in Llano, (254) 977-3333
- 503 RR 1431 East No. 202, Marble Falls
Pecan Street Brewing in Johnson City is planning a fundraiser, and a GoFundMe.com account has been set up to help the family.
“It’s great to have that support,” Frank said.
Days after the fire, Frank and Lisa remain proud of Abby but not surprised she got her siblings and their family pets to safety in a situation that might have made others freeze with fear.
“She’s able to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done,” her dad said. “She has the skills to put them into motion, to do what she needs to do at any point in time.”