By Kathy Chaffin
One of Chris Wiles’ cousins noticed him working in his front yard Sunday night putting together a swing set for his youngest son, Michael.
He had his headlights pointed at the swing set so he could see.
Early Monday afternoon, Clifford Goodman Jr. stood with his cousin as firefighters worked to put out the fire burning inside Wiles’ doublewide on Lu-Dot Lane off Old Concord Road.
Michael, who will turn 4 on March 12, was asleep inside the doublewide with his mother, Laura, when the smoke detector awakened them. “Thank God for smoke detectors,” she said.
Because she stays up late at night babysitting, Laura said she tries to sleep in every chance she gets.
“And he sleeps in, too,” she said of her son.
When she got up, Laura said she saw the fire spreading throughout her daughters’ bedroom and ran out of the doublewide with Michael. They ran to the nearby home of Chris’ sister, Elaine Bowles, who called 911 at about 11:30 a.m.
Michael stayed calm the whole time, his mother said. “He gets that from his daddy.”
Chris Wiles was a firefighter and medical responder with the Rockwell Rural Volunteer Fire Department for about nine years and learned to stay calm in emergencies.
Instead of panicking, Laura said, Michael followed his father’s example and hugged her and said everything was going to be all right. “He couldn’t stand for his mama to be in distress at all,” she said.
Chris’ sister called him at his job with Carolina Stalite Company to tell him about the fire. He said the first thing he asked her was, “Are they OK?”
Even with flames coming out of his roof, Wiles was able to keep his perspective once he arrived on the scene.
His wife and the youngest of his six children were safe. That’s the most important thing, he said.
The other three children who live with them in the home were at school.
Deborah Horne, fire inspector and investigator for Rowan County, said Monday afternoon that the fire was still under investigation.
Two to three rooms on the end of the doublewide facing Old Concord Road were destroyed by the fire, she said. “The rest of the home has smoke and water damage.”
Horne said the fire was a good example of how smoke detectors can save lives. “If you don’t have a smoke detector, you need to get one,” she said.
Chief Mike Zimmerman of the Bostian Heights Fire Department, who established command at the scene, said about 30 firefighters from Bostian Heights, South Salisbury, Faith, Locke and China Grove responded to the fire.
Horne said all the departments did a great job “considering some of them were short-staffed with it being the middle of the day.”
Zimmerman said it took firefighters about 15 minutes to get the fire under control.
“When we arrived, we had a lot of heavy smoke on ground level,” he said. “We could hardly see the mobile home.”
There was heavy fire coming out the rear of the doublewide, Zimmerman said. “Part of the roof had already burned through.”
The wind was also a factor, he said, making the fire more difficult to put out.
Another problem, Zimmerman said, was the way the doublewide was put together. Because there’s nothing separating the two halves in the attic area, he said the fire spread quickly from one half to the other.
“I wish there was a building code where they could have a fire stop,” he said of doublewides. “Sheetrock on each section where they’re put together would stop it.”
Zimmerman said no firefighters were injured in the fire.
The Rowan Fire Marshal’s Office and Rowan Rescue also responded, and representatives of the Hanford-Dole Chapter of the American Red Cross offered assistance to the Wiles family, according to Horne.
Relatives who live around the Wiles family gathered in the field across from their doublewide as a show of support. There are Goodmans all around for at least 100 acres, said Cathy Goodman, whose husband is Chris’ cousin.
“We call it Goodmanville,” she said.
Clifford Goodman Jr. said Goodmans live on about 300 acres off of Old Concord Road.
“We’re all kin down here,” he said, “one big happy family.”
Goodman tried to cheer Wiles, saying his family might get picked for a new house by producers of the popular television program, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
“Move that bus!” he shouted.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4240 or email@example.com.
By Kathy Chaffin