Woman tells of escaping home blaze
By Nathan Hardin
Mary Everhart fell asleep on her couch on Oct. 4 before waking up hours later to a loud noise and a house full of smoke.
Everhart said it was too smoky to see and she had to feel her way through the house, shouting to longtime boyfriend, Herman Ray Brown.
The 79-year-old shouted several times to Brown before he responded, she said, and she yelled that the home was on fire.
She tried to get her Chihuahua from its kennel, but couldnít because of the heat and thick smoke pouring through the home.
As she felt her way to the exit, she saw the lights from her wireless telephone flashing, so she picked it up and called 911.
But before she could tell them about the emergency, the line went dead.
Once outside, Everhart realized that 78-year-old Brown wasnít waiting there.
Firefighters found his body hours later inside the 3530 Leonard Road home. The home burned to the foundation.
After several minutes, Everhart began walking barefoot down Leonard Road toward her brotherís house for help.
Thatís when one of the first responders spotted her and pulled over.
Everhart and Brown had been together for about 25 years, she said.
More than a week after the accident, she was still struggling to contact members of Brownís family, including his son and daughter.
ěAll the important papers, clothes ó the medical forms and insurance,î Everhart said, ěit was all gone.
ěThatís why itís taking so long,î she said.
On Monday, one week after the fire, she spoke to Brownís daughter on the phone for the first time. She was inside the home of Carl Moore, her brother, who Everhart is staying with.
She recounted the fateful morning and how the events unfolded.
Brownís daughter, Cheryl Jean Adams, said she was frustrated because the medical examiner hadnít released the body and she was having difficulties getting in touch with family members.
ěIím having trouble getting anybody that can let me know anything about the body,î Adams said. ěIím down here in Florida. We donít have the funds to be able to get there right now.î
Meloney Everhart, Maryís daughter, said she had known Brown since he and Mary first started dating.
ěHe was a good-hearted person,î Meloney Everhart said. ěHe loved animals, and he loved people.î
Everhart said she thought Brown tried to go back into the home that morning to save his dog.
She said she went out into the woods after firefighters arrived to see if she could find Brown somewhere near the home.
ěI think he was in there trying to find his little dog,î she said.
Brown, who was a volunteer firefighter in Greensboro before having a heart attack in the í90s, was found near the rear of the home, family members said.
Rowan County Fire Inspector Aaron Youngblood was one of the investigators of the Leonard Road home.
Youngblood said they have not determined the cause of the fire because the fire burned down to the homeís foundation.
Meloney Everhart said she looked through the remains and thinks the fire started at the front of the house.
ěHe was at the back,î Meloney Everhart said. ěHe probably thought he could get his little dog and get out.î
The fatal fire occurred just one week before Fire Prevention Week, dedicated to informing the public about the dangers of fires.
The Salisbury Fire Department spent several days this week visiting Rowan County schools to speak with kids about safety concerns, and also giving tours around some of the stations.
According to Salisbury Fire Chief Bob Parnell, Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
ěIt serves as a reminder to double check and recheck home fire safety devices and allows us to focus in on fire safety and children in schools,î Parnell said.
Parnell said fires double in size roughly every minute and that itís important for families to develop emergency plans.
ěWe always advocate that people check their smoke detectors monthly,î Parnell said. ěWe advocate exit drills or plans for the home, so that if you have some sort of emergency at night, you have some sort of a rally point.î
Many new homes have smoke detectors with 10-year batteries in them, Parnell said. But he said itís important to make sure your smoke detector is a 10-year model or has new batteries in it.
The Salisbury Fire Department will have an Open House on Oct. 22 at Fire Station No. 2 and another on Nov. 13 at Station No. 3.
The stations will have fire prevention activities available for children and adults, including bedroom and kitchen fire safety activities and crawl-through-smoke drills.
ěIn the 30 years Iíve been involved with Salisbury Fire Department, weíve never had any fire prevention activities available to the public at stations No. 2. and No. 3,î Parnell said.