Two house fires, one in Newport on Thursday and the other in Atlantic on Saturday, have been ruled accidental, according to county Fire Marshall Eddie Lewis. Both homes were completely destroyed.
A malfunctioning liquid propane heater sparked a blaze at 5178 Highway 101, Newport around 8 pm Thursday evening.
Resident Joseph Hopkins told Lewis he and his roommate Curtis Dyess were both asleep when Hopkins woke up to a fire in the living room. He attempted to walk by the fire to wake up Dyess, who was in a back bedroom, but was unable to get past the flames.
“The fire was so hot it burned the hair off the top of his head,” Lewis said.
Hopkins was able to exit through the front door and ran around the house to Dyess’ bedroom window, beating on it until Dyess woke up. Dyess tried to leave through the bedroom door, but found himself trapped. He was able to push out a window AC unit and escape, but broke a bone in his leg in the process.
Both men were treated at Carteret Health Care and released.
“There was no working smoke detector in the house,” Lewis said. “Those gentlemen are very fortunate to be alive. We could have had two fatalities easily.”
The uninsured home is a total loss, Lewis said, and Hopkins and Dyess lost everything inside. The American Red Cross is assisting, and a friend set up a Go Fund Me account to help the two get back on their feet.
Lewis said heaters are a major cause of fires during colder months. In this case, the liquid propane heater had been going out. The heater was located near an uncovered electrical box, causing dead shorts that exacerbated the fire.
The fire burned to hot and fast that neighbors initially thought there had been an explosion, or that ammunition was cooking off. Lewis said there is no evidence to back up either theory.
“I think whatever people were hearing were the dead shorts and other items in the house,” he said.
Hopkins and Dyess told Lewis that the malfunctioning heater was scheduled to be serviced on Saturday.
A second devastating fire broke out over the weekend at 190 Morris Marina Road, Atlantic.
Just before 4 am Saturday, Derek Young, his sister Melody Young, and her boyfriend Frederick Godette were heating up oil on the stove to prepare a late night snack when the pan caught fire and quickly got out of control.
Down East Fire Department responded to the call, and Stacy and Cedar Island fire departments assisted.
All three were able to escape, and no one was injured. Derek Young, who lived in the home, lost everything. The Red Cross is assisting, and a friend set up a Go Fund Me account for him.
Like the Newport house, there were no working smoke detectors in the home.
Lewis said his office can provide smoke detectors for those who are unable to afford them, thanks to a grant from the state. The detectors have 10-year battery lives, and the Fire Marshal’s office will install them free of charge.
Anyone in need of a smoke detector can call Carteret Emergency Services at 252-222-5841.