Family sifts through remains of destroyed home

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 28, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
nhardin@salisburypost.com
The mobile home was almost completely engulfed in flames by the time Crystal Casper got outside.
She lives just down the road from her mother’s Chalice Court home, which caught fire just before 8 p.m. Sunday night.
A neighbor notified Casper after seeing flames coming from the home’s roof.
The 32-year-old said she could hear the sirens of approaching fire engines.
“It had already spread into the yard,” she said. “Thank God nobody was here.”
Casper; her sister, Patricia Hand; and their mother, Janet Hill, spent a good part of Monday picking through the ashes of their old home, looking for anything salvageable.
It was a somber atmosphere at the burned ruins, where smoke could be seen rising from still-hot parts of the house’s interior.
“It’s tough to see it all gone,” Casper said.
As Hill and her daughters rummaged through the rubble, they stopped occasionally to laugh about old report cards or cry over the loss of sentimental items.
“It was a total loss,” Bostian Heights Fire Chief Mike Zimmerman said. “There’s nothing left of it.”
From a firefighter’s perspective, Zimmerman said the house was gone by the time they arrived.
The roof had already collapsed and only a few walls were standing when firefighters pulled hoses from their trucks Sunday evening.
Zimmerman said about 35 firefighters assisted in fighting the blaze, with emergency crews coming from South Salisbury Fire, Faith Fire, Locke Fire, Landis Fire and Rowan Rescue.
“We had to do a defensive attack,” he said. “It had been burning a good bit before anybody saw it.”
Fire crews stayed at the house until about 1 a.m.
Rowan County Fire Investigator Aaron Youngblood was also at the 2765 Chalice Court home on Monday afternoon.
Youngblood said the fire is not a suspected arson, but its cause is still under investigation.
“It’s so far gone, it’s hard to get an exact cause,” Youngblood said. “It likely started near the living room.”
Family members said they were told Monday morning the fire may have started in one of the home’s air conditioning units.
Patricia Hand said it was difficult to sift through the burned clothes, jewelry and old documents from the house that she grew up in.
“It’s not fair,” Hand said. “You just have to push through the tears and grab it.”
Janet Hill said she was at Food Lion when her daughter called her Sunday evening.
“I was in the checkout line,” she said.
“She started screaming in the middle of Food Lion,” Crystal Casper added.
“I don’t remember coming home,” Hill said.
Hill said she saw the flames as she pulled up to the house and saw emergency crews and people standing around.
“She collapsed in my front yard,” Casper said.
Hand said she knew there was a problem when she got the call.
“I knew something was wrong when Crystal called,” Hand said, “because she doesn’t call, she texts.”
Before her mother arrived at the burned house Monday afternoon, Hand said she was glad to find something for her mother in the remains.
“Mom will just be happy to have this stuff,” she said. “She thought she lost everything, but I told her there was still something.”
Hill, 53, hadn’t been at the house since last Tuesday, Casper said. She had been spending time with her husband, William, who is in a nursing home.
Just before fire investigators arrived back at the house Monday afternoon, family members walked over to a green hand wagon and placed old cards, papers and slightly scorched photos in the cart.
“What do you do?” Hand said. “You take your memories and you move on.”

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