McKINNEY — Michael Javier says it's a miracle he's alive.
The ranch foreman at Storybook Ranch in McKinney barely escaped the fire that raged through the main facility on January 3.
Javier remembers settling in for the night. He lived on the second floor of that facility, and around 8:30 he started to smell smoke in his room.
"I opened the attic door and there was this huge gust of black, thick, smoke," he said.
Javier said he was blinded by the smoke. He could see fire coming from the bottom floor.
"When I was laying there and the smoke was getting thicker, my only thought was: 'Did I live a good life? Or are people going to remember me with good thoughts?'" Javier said.
Amid the chaos, he used a flashlight to alert McKinney firefighters. They climbed a ladder and broke the window that led them into his room.
The foreman served underprivileged children and married couples as an ordained minister on the ranch. He said he's seen so many children find joy at the facility.
A lot of the pictures he once had were claimed by fire. All he has left is a box filled a few things that survived the fire, including a cross given to him by his girlfriend.
"The bag was melted, but inside the cross was pristine — like it had never been touched," Javier said.
He said that's a sign someone is watching.
The Vietnam vet was raised in foster homes all through his childhood. The rare memory of his father is a watch he gave him when he was very young.
"It's one of the silly things that survived, but there's got to be a reason for that, and one day I will give it to my son," he said.
Javier lost nearly everything in the fire. The jeans and the boots he has on were all donated.
He's living with his girlfriend for now, but knows his home is that ranch... and says he will return.