Couple loses home to fire while at the beach
By Jessie Burchette and Wayne Hinshaw
ENOCHVILLE ó Billy Joe and Mary Barnhardt left home Monday with their daughter and grandchildren for a trip to the beach.
Wednesday morning, they got a call that their home at 505 Spring Garden St. had been destroyed by fire.
Spring Garden extends off West C Street near Enochville Avenue.
A cat and her six kittens perished in the blaze.
Five fire departments responded to the scene after a neighbor spotted the fire and called 911.
Mary Barnhardt has cancer and has been taking chemo treatments. Her husband told her they would go to the beach when she finished her 30th treatment, which is what they did.
Both are retired and lost everything in Wednesday’s fire except what they had with them at the beach.
Billy Joe Barnhardt said that was the longest 4-hour ride from the beach he had ever experienced.
A steady flow of cars with friends came by the house Wednesday afternoon to talk with the Barnhardts. The elder Barnhardt guessed that 70 friends had been by to offer their words of regret about the fire.
Billy Joe Barnhardt said the couple had lived there for 60 years after getting the house from his wife’s mother. They had remodeled the house. He was sad to lose the only photos he had of his and his wife’s parents.
He is worried about having to go into debt to rebuild the house.
He made a habit of churning homemade banana ice cream on Sundays, and law enforcement officers often dropped by for a cool treat.
Barnhardt lost his ice cream freezers in the fire.
He has an outbuilding with a pool table that was not burned. He said people from the neighborhood gather around the pool table to play, so everybody knows him.
An insurance adjuster is coming today, but he doubts he has enough coverage to replace the home, he said.
More than 75 percent of the single-story, wood frame house was already engulfed in flames when Enochville firefighters arrived, according to Deborah Horne, county fire investigator.
The Landis, Kannapolis, Atwell and China Grove departments sent crews and equipment. The Rowan Rescue Squad also responded.
Landis Fire Chief Reed Linn said Landis and Enochville crews attempted an interior attack but had to pull out because of the intensity of the fire. (Enochville Fire and Rescue officials did not return calls from the Post.)Kelly Cantrell, the Barnhardts’ son-in-law, called the couple Wednesday morning to tell them about the fire.
Cantrell, who lives near Davidson, had stopped by Tuesday evening to check on the mama cat and her litter. He told investigators that everything was fine around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Cantrell said the family lost furniture, clothes and family mementos. “There’s nothing left,” he said.
The Barnhardt family will still have some treasured photos. “We’re pretty good there. During the last couple of years, we’ve been making copies of the old pictures,” Cantrell said. Now they’ll have to make copies off the computer.
The American Red Cross offered to provide hotel rooms for the Barnhardts, but Cantrell said they will stay with other family members.
Firefighters were on the scene for several hours.
Investigators with the Rowan County Fire Marshal’s office assisted firefighters in trying to determine the cause of the blaze.
Investigator Horne said she found no indication of arson.
Late Wednesday, investigators had isolated the area where the fire started to an area at the back of the house. Billy Joe Barnhardt said fire officials told him later the blaze started in an electricial fuse box in the back of the home.
Working through the burned home, investigators found the remains of four kittens. Horne said they had not been able to find the others but believe they perished.
Since Mary Barnhardt began her treatment for cancern, Billy Joe said he had to take medicine to let him sleep at night.
“When I take the medicine, it completely knocks me out,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “Nothing wakes me up. It is good that we were away, or we would have died in the fire.”