Couple escapes unharmed from house fire
BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Saturday, February 16, 2019
A Twin County Hall-of-Famer lost her Rocky Mount home to a fire Saturday.
Jean Almand Kitchin said she's lucky to have escaped the blaze. Her four-bedroom, three-bath house in Candlewood was destroyed in an early morning fire. The house is valued at $240,000. No one was injured in the fire.
Kitchin said she heard a popping noise at about 2 a.m. but was going back to sleep when something told her to check it out. She got out of bed to find the entire back of the house engulfed in flames.
"I woke my husband up shouting 'the house is on fire,'" Kitchin said. "I grabbed my phone and ran outside in my pajamas. As soon as we got to the front yard, the house just exploded. We're fortunate we weren't killed. A neighbor brought us chairs and we just sat there helpless while those brave firefighters tried to put out the flames."
Rocky Mount Fire Chief Mike Varnell said his firefighters did everything they could but the house was already 50 percent engulfed by flames when they arrived.
"The structure is still standing, but in my professional opinion the house is a total loss," Varnell said.
The 3,400-square-foot house was full of wood.
"My husband's a woodworker and the house had a lot of wood flooring," Kitchin said.
As word spread of the fire Saturday, the Telegram was inundated with calls, emails and texts from people concerned about Kitchin.
Inducted into the local hall of fame in 2016, Kitchin has been a television personality, downtown development cheerleader, successful businesswoman, educator and nonprofit fundraiser. She also served as chairwoman of the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education and Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce.
Kitchin said she lost a house to Hurricane Floyd and now to a fire.
"Having a normal life is going to be a challenge," Kitchin said, adding that she had television appearances booked and was supposed to fly to California to visit a sick grandchild.
"We're in a hotel," a tearful Kitchin said.
The couple were at Sam's Club purchasing toothbrushes and shampoo when it sunk in that everything they owned was gone.
Kitchen bought the house four years ago and spent two years remodeling it. The couple sold their Scotland Neck home 18 months ago and moved to the house on Old Coach Road. They donated many of their possessions due to lack of space and now what's left has been burned or too damaged by smoke to be salvaged.
Kitchin said the Red Cross has reached out to her and she is meeting with them.
"If someone wants to help it would be great," Kitchin said. "We're starting all over all again. All l own is my bathrobe. I feel so vulnerable right now."
Kitchin said she's cognizant that she's been blessed with more than a lot of folks, but that's all gone now.