In the snowy winter weather this past weekend, Stokes County was stricken with a rash of house fires. There were no fatalities, but some pets were killed in the flames. The three families involved also lost most of their material goods.
The first fire occurred on Saturday morning, January 30, with the distress call coming in at 4:36 a.m. Fire departments that responded were Pinnacle, King and Double Creek. Pilot Knob also assisted. Fire apparatus arrived just seven minutes after the initial call came in, but already the home was the scene of an active fire, flames shooting through the roof.
The home was occupied by the Daniel Luffman family which consists of parents and three children. They were sleeping when an eight-year-old child sounded the alarm to the rest of the family. All lives were spared, but one of the adults was treated for minor injuries then released.
Investigations give evidence that the fire began in the chimney which was being utilized for heating purposes. Due to the excessive damage at the house, the exact cause has not been determined. According to Travis Grey, an assistant fire marshal in the Stokes County Fire Marshals office, the home had no working smoke detectors.
The Northwest North Carolina chapter of the American Red Cross has entered the picture to help the family. Hugh Quinn, executive director for the organization, reported that Red Cross volunteers have met with the Luffman family to offer services to aid them.
"We have provided financial assistance for three nights lodging, clothing for all five family members as well as seasonal garments, food for a week, and linens," Quinn stated. "We will also continue to follow up with the family to make sure they are getting resettled as soon as possible and depending on their needs, we will assist further financially or provide referrals to other organizations."
According to Quinn, Pinnacle Elementary School is also helping the family through donations of clothing and food. The school plans to sell paper hearts to the students to help the family with their loss.
Pinnacle Fire Chief Robert Snyder was quoted in The Pilot as saying that community organizations had also voiced intentions to provide help for the family.
Another fire broke out on Sunday evening in Danbury. The emergency call was made to Stokes County Emergency Communications at 6:13 p.m. The blaze was reported at 1227 Mission Road, just off Pitzer Road near Priddys General Store.
Fire departments from Danbury, Northeast Stokes and Lawsonville hurried to the scene to combat the flames. But before the firetrucks arrived, the owner of the property, Carl Hicks, broke through a window to pull an unconscious woman to safety. She had called Hicks, who lived nearby, to say there was an emergency, but she succumbed to the smoke before Hicks could get there.
According to Assistant Fire Marshal Jeff Whitaker, "the victim suffered severe smoke inhalation" and was still in the hospital as of Tuesday morning.
There was not much time for rest before another house fire was reported, this time at 354 Asbury Road in the Stokes County portion of Mt. Airy. The call came at 12:40 a.m. Local fire departments that responded were Westfield, Pilot Knob, Francisco, Double Creek, Lawsonville and Danbury. Two units from Surry County and one from Virginia also assisted. Walnut Cove Fire Department transported their air trailer so that the firefighters airpacs could be refilled on the scene.
The large number of responders was due to a need for "water supply and manpower," said Whitaker. The home had only one story with a basement but was an extremely large structure, according to Grey.
The fire started in the kitchen and appears to be unintentional. The home was owned by a couple who lived there with their two grandchildren. A fire detector woke one of the children who then alerted the rest of the family.
"This is a direct result of the fire prevention that the fire marshals and the local fire departments do to educate children in the school systems, usually during fire prevention month in October," said Grey.
The final unit cleared the scene at 7:42 a.m. on Monday morning. One firefighter was transported to Northern Hospital of Surry County for smoke inhalation.
Whitaker stated that it appears that all three fires were accidental and unintentional, although they are still under investigation.