10/12/06 — Family escapes flames

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Family escapes flames

By Lee Williams
Published in News on October 12, 2006 2:02 PM

Fire raced through a two-bedroom mobile home Wednesday leaving only charred tin and memories in its wake.

Barbara Oates and her two grandchildren were inside the home when the fire broke out at Casey's Mobile Home Park located in the 1700 block of South Slocumb Street. Neighbors, including 14-year-old Breshan Braswell, a Dillard Middle School student, and 27-year-old Wonnie Wynn, helped rescue the family from the home -- before it was too late.

Ms. Oates was watching a soap opera when she began to smell smoke.

"I looked and I turned and I saw the fire," said Ms. Oates, a 44-year-old housekeeper. "By that time, that's when they knocked on the door. It's a good thing they did, because I think it helped bring me to my senses."

Braswell's first attempt to rescue the family was thwarted by the feverish blaze, but he didn't give up.

"I tried to get the kids out by going in the front door, but I couldn't because it was too hot, so I went around and opened the back door," Braswell said. "I thought they were going to die because the fire was hot."

Wynn said he helped Braswell. He wanted to make sure everyone including Ms. Oates and her two grandchildren, Kaderris, 4, and Naz, 2, made it out safely -- and they did.

The family made it out safely wearing only the clothes on their backs. As the fire grew, a neighbor called for help.

Ten firefighters and three emergency medical services personnel arrived about 1:15 p.m. and found the mobile home engulfed in flames, Goldsboro Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Langston said.

"It was coming out of every window," Langston said.

Langston said the firefighters waged an exterior attack to snuff out the blaze. It took them only five minutes to knock down the flames, but by then it was too late. The fire had progressed too extensively prior to their arrival to save the home.

"A fire spreads quickly in a mobile home," Langston said.

Surrounded by a sea of spectators, fire and rescue crews remained on the scene after the fire was extinguished for an extra 55 minutes to extinguish any lingering hotspots that could trigger a rekindle.

The fire caused about $1,800 in damage to the home owned by Lonnie Casey and about $1,000 in damage to the contents, Langston said.

A working smoke detector might have alerted the family sooner, officials said.

"They had smoke detectors, but the tenants said they didn't work to alert them about the fire," Langston said. "Neighbors woke her up."

Ms. Oates also said the smoke detector did not sound when the fire broke out.

"The smoke detector is right back there in front of my door," Ms. Oates said. "It had a battery in it and the light was on. I don't know why it didn't go off."

As family and friends sifted in vain for salvageable items through the charred remains, Ms. Oates stared in shock at the place she used to call home for nearly a year.

Fire officials guesstimated her loss at about $1,000, but to Ms. Oates what she lost was priceless. All of her belongings including, her daughter's baby clothes for her two preemies and Ms. Oates' precious memories were destroyed in the fire.

Fire officials said the cause of the fire was undetermined, but Ms. Oates said she believed an electrical problem caused the fire.

"It had to be because the fire was all right where I had problems with this little lamp that's on the wall," Ms. Oates said.

Others who live in nearby trailers, including Wynn, said the mobile homes in Casey's Mobile Home Park had some possible electrical concerns. They pointed to electrical sockets that dangled low to the ground, a smoke detector that was missing its casing and an unsecured fuse box that sat low enough for a child to reach into and possibly injure himself.

"Something needs to be done," Wynn said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Oates, her daughter and her five grandchildren are struggling to pick up the pieces. The local American Red Cross will provide Ms. Oates with a hotel room for three days, but after that she has no idea where she will go.

"I don't know," Ms. Oates said softly. "I don't know."

If anyone would like to help Ms. Oates and her family, please call her niece, Misha Smith, at 429-1477.