Woman dies trying to save father from house fire

By Brie Handgraaf

Staff Writer

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Authorities said an Edgecombe County woman and her father were killed Wednesday morning in a house fire.

Barbara Joiner Harris, 48, reportedly lived near her parents home north of Fountain when she heard about a fire at the house shortly before 11 a.m. and rushed to help. Harris reportedly was able to rescue her mother from the burning house but died trying to save her 67-year-old father, Jimmy Harris.

“The daughter got there and was able to get her mother out,” Sheriff James Knight said. “She went back in to get her father, who was blind and in a wheelchair, but neither came back out.”

Officials said the two victims were overcome by smoke. The mother was not injured in the fire.

“From talking with her husband, this is just the type of person that she was,” Knight said. “She would help anybody that she could. She was kind of like the nucleus for the family and if anyone needed anything, they’d always come to her.

“With her having that mentality, I think saving her parents was her natural reaction. I would guess her only thought was helping her family.”

Barbara Harris leaves behind a husband, three children and two grandchildren.

Investigators said they believe the fire likely started near the wood stove as one of the residents was cleaning out the ashes.

“It appears that a family member was cleaning out the heater and trying to restart a fire in the wood stove,” Knight said. “While doing so, the coals caught the house on fire and it was an older home, so it didn’t take much.”

Knight said criminal charges are unlikely, but the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation is being called in to investigate as is protocol in a fatal fire.