97-year-old dragged from fire safely in Cleveland

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 24, 2011

By Karissa Minn
CLEVELAND — Two women dragged a 97-year-old man to safety from a Christmas Eve house fire in Cleveland.
One person was evaluated for smoke inhalation, but no one was seriously injured in the fire. The home at 340 Knox Road was gutted by the blaze, which took about 90 minutes to put out Saturday afternoon.
Emergency crews were evaluating Robert Knox Jr., who cannot walk, when the fire was called under control around 4:15 p.m.
His grandson, Luke Knox, and Luke’s wife, Meredith, also live in the home. Meredith was taken to the hospital for a precautionary smoke inhalation check.
She and Robert Knox Jr.’s caretaker, Phyllis Pullam, helped get him out of the house when a grease flare-up got out of control.
Robert Knox III owns the home and said Meredith was on the other side of the building when the cooking fire started.
He said Meredith smelled smoke and ran to the kitchen, where Pullam had been heating grease on the stove for fried chicken. According to Debra Horne from the Rowan County Fire Marshal’s Office, the two women tried to put out the fire, but the flames spread too quickly.
Around 2:45 p.m., they called 911 and got Robert Knox Jr. out of the house.
The younger Robert Knox said he was just a few minutes away when his wife called to tell him what was happening.
“It was pretty well engulfed when we got here,” he said. “There was fire coming out both windows on this side of the house.”
Horne said the older Robert Knox built the house himself in the 1940s, and Luke and Meredith had done some remodeling just a few years ago.
“Everybody’s OK,” Robert Knox III said, choking up as he looked at the smoke-filled home. Later, gesturing to emergency responders, he said, “I just want to thank all of these people.”
Greg Summitt, deputy chief with the Cleveland Fire Department, said the fire burned the interior stairs, limiting firefighters’ access and making it difficult to put out.
Summitt said a second alarm was called because there might have been limited people working on Christmas Eve, but plenty of personnel showed up.
Responding to the fire were the Cleveland, Franklin, Locke, Woodleaf, West Rowan, Wayside (in Iredell County) and Rowan-Iredell fire departments, along with the Rowan County Fire Marshal, EMS and Rescue Squad. Salisbury Fire Department also responded to assist Cleveland.
Robert Knox III said he can provide a place for his family members to stay, but they have lost clothes, furniture and medical equipment. The American Red Cross was called in to help them.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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