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Area fires shake community

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Weaverville Tribune, Jan. 14, 2016

By Heather Berry and James Mathews

Buncombe County – A series of fires has claimed one life in Reems Creek, sent a Barnardsvillle family to a burn unit in Winston-Salem, left 10 families homeless, destroyed
several residential structures, taken an old barn down to its foundation and shaken the community in the past several weeks.

Tragedy struck early Sunday morning, Jan. 10, when a fi re erupted in a single-wide trailer at the Pleasant Grove Mobile Home Park in Reems Creek. According to Reems Creek Fire Chief Jeff Justice, “When we arrived, there was a female saying
there was still a male occupant in the house and a heavy fi re showing from the living room and one bedroom.” Reems Creek firefighters entered the trailer in an effort to locate the man.

“A Weaverville [Fire Department] crew took a window out of the bedroom on one side and a Reems Creek crew took a window out on the other side and started searching for him, within the first three or four minutes,” said Chief Justice.

Jack Penland, a 79-year-old former bluegrass musician, perished in the blaze. “Apparently, he had come outside and went back in,” explained Chief Justice. “We’re not sure if it was to rescue a family pet or what happened,” he added. The fire proved diffi cult to get under control. “For a trailer, it took a long time,” said Chief Justice. “It took an hour before we got it under control. They had a bunch of oxygen cylinders in the trailer; the people living there were on oxygen so we had a couple of explosions of those bottles.” The surviving occupant of the house was transported by
Buncombe EMS to Mission Hospital and, at press time, was
reported to be in serious condition.

Eight area fire departments responded to a fire on Ivy Hill
Road just north of the Madison County line Saturday afternoon
around 2:44 p.m. A residential trailer on the property
housed a family, but no one was injured during the fire. The
trailer also wasn’t severely damaged, but did suffer from damage
caused by radiant heat, according to Marshall Volunteer
Fire Department Fire Chief Dustin Bradley. A large barn on
the property was burned to its foundation.

“There was only one mobile home adjacent to the barn, which
hadn’t become involved, but did suffer some damage from radiant
heat,” Chief Bradley said. “The mobile home was a total
save, but the barn was a total loss,” he continued.
According to Chief Bradley, the family living in the mobile
home were forced to leave the home until power could be
turned back. The family, though, were referred to the area Red
Cross and are safely staying in the home of local friends and
relatives. “There was an elderly lady in the home,” said Chief
Bradley. “She had a fractured leg or ankle, previous to the fi re,
and she couldn’t walk. She was carried out by a teenage son or
grandson,” explained Chief Bradley.
The barn, according to Chief Bradley, was only used for
storage and no animals were inside. The fi re’s cause is being
What do you do cont…
Area fi res shake community
called “undetermined” said Chief Bradley.
The Barnardsville Fire Department, along with support from
more than 10 area fi re departments and emergency service agencies,
responded to a fi re at the Rock Bridge Apartment at 2:30
a.m. Sunday, Jan. 3. A family of three, including a child, were
taken to the Wake Forest Baptist Health Burn Center in Winston-
Salem. One burn victim was airlifted. The building has
since been condemned, leaving several families displaced.

“The reason it was condemned has to do with a loss of power
and water,” explained Buncombe County Deputy Fire Marshal
Terry Gentry. “Due to the loss of power with the fi re to a house
panel, the lighting in the hallway, emergency lighting with exit
signs and presented a safety issue. In addition, the well was taken out, so they have no water.” Heating to the apartments, added Marshal Gentry, also impacted by the fire and loss of power. The insurance company needs to finish up before an electrician can come in and power can be restored, said the Marshal Gentry. In terms of the displaced families, Marshal Gentry said there could be as many as 19 families looking for new homes.

“The Red Cross stepped in and put the families up for three
days,” he continued. “It’s my understanding that the owner of the
apartment building refunded security deposits and January rent
for those families who paid January. “I was out there with the
building inspector when the building was condemned and the
owner said, ‘Start writing the checks,’” said Marshal Gentry.
Marshal Gentry said he’s received confl icting reports about
the family of three burn victims who were taken to the Wake
Forest Baptist Health Burn Center in Winston-Salem as a result
of the Barnardsville fi re. “The one good thing, to our knowledge,
there are no fatalities,” Marshal Gentry said. “But, because of
Hipaa regulations, nobody will tell us anything.” Marshal Gentry
did confi rm, however, one child was among the victims taken
to Winston-Salem.

Early Monday, another fi re erupted around 3:30 a.m. at a home
at 267 North Bear Creek Road. According to West Buncombe
Fire Chief Randy Ratclilff, the fire started in the basement and
moved to the main part of the house. Six people were in the house at the time. “Everybody was alerted by a smoke detector and everybody got out of the house,” said Chief Ratcliff.
While the investigation is still ongoing, Ratcliff said that the
fire’s culprit, “it’s pointing to a malfunction in the heating system.”
Ratcliff noted he believed the house used a boiler heating
system as well as fi rewood. The house, according to Chief Ratcliff, suffered heavy smoke and heat damage. The family is being assisted by the Red Cross. The Red Cross is assisting the family with their needs.”