Fire units from Spring Hope, Momeyer and Stan Hope were dispatched to 109 North Side Drive just before 4 a.m. Dec. 28 in Spring Hope.
Nash County Deputy Fire Marshal Chris Bissette said a next-door neighbor was awoken by a smoke alarm going off and his apartment filling with smoke. The neighbor called 911 to report the fire and went next door to try to alert the victim but was unsuccessful. He found the apartment full of smoke and a glow coming from the kitchen.
Heavy smoke and flames were visible when crews from the Spring Hope and Momeyer fire departments arrived at the scene. Firefighter Chris Chappel of Spring Hope, Capt. Rance Manning, Assistant Chief J.R. Manning and firefighter Tyler Hinton of Momeyer entered the blazing apartment.
Spring Hope Fire Chief David Shelton said most of the rear of the apartment was fully engulfed by fire and flames were spreading into the front. Chappel, a five-year veteran firefighter, found a 48-year-old man who weighed more than 200 pounds laying on the floor near the front bedroom window. He was unable to lift the man by himself and quickly alerted the other firefighters on the hose line that he needed help.
Rance Manning, an 11-year veteran of the fire service, and J.R. Manning, a 13-year veteran, rushed to assist him. Firefighter Tyler Hinton stayed on the hose line, holding the flames back as the firefighters removed the severely burned victim from the burning apartment.
A neighbor told Spring Hope firefighter Gene Carlyle that there could possibly be a woman with small children in the rear bedroom. This was quickly relayed to the attack crew that was still fighting the fire inside. They were able to make their way into the rear bedroom but could not find any other people.
Shelton said the woman and her children were away during the Christmas holiday visiting family. He said it was a miracle that they were not there as they probably would not have made it out of the apartment.
Nash County EMS transported the victim to Nash General Hospital, and he was then flown to UNC Burn Center in Chapel Hill. Bissette said the victim suffered severe burns from the waist up and smoke inhalation. Bissette said he is in critical but stable condition and apparently will survive due to the quick action of the firefighters.
Bissette said it appears that the fire started in the washing machine in the rear of the apartment.
Shelton had high praise for the firefighters and gave credit to their team work and the fire training they received.