Woodleaf fire claims life of 67-year-old

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 1, 2012

By Karissa Minn
WOODLEAF — Investigators say a fire that killed a man in western Rowan County on Friday morning was caused by a pot left on the hot stove.
Kenneth Ray Koontz, 67, lived alone in the home at 159 Cone Drive off Wrangler Road, authorities said.
Relatives and neighbors say they believe Koontz died in the fire, but an investigator with the Rowan County Fire Marshal’s Office said the remains recovered from the destroyed home have not been positively identified.
Gail Draughn, his sister-in-law and a Mocksville resident, said Koontz has a son and a daughter who live in Jacksonville, Fla. He had lived in the home for about seven years after moving from Florida to be closer to the rest of his family.
“He loved his children, he loved his grandchildren and he loved his mom, who is 93 years old,” Draughn said. “He was a good person.”
Family members said Koontz’s mother stopped by Friday morning to visit and saw the burned mobile home.
She has asked the community to pray for her family, according to fire investigator Deborah Horne.
Horne said the fire started around 7 a.m. Friday when a pot of green beans overheated on the kitchen stove.
Koontz used oxygen for medical reasons and smoked, relatives said, but Horne said the oxygen tanks were not a factor in how the fire began.
A volunteer firefighter on his way to work heard the call at 7:10 a.m. reporting a fully involved structure fire. He immediately went to the scene, Horne said, but when he broke a window and tried to go inside the home, thick smoke pushed him back.
Firefighters arrived soon afterward, but they had to maneuver around live power lines until a Duke Energy crew arrived.
“Woodleaf Fire Department and all the fire departments involved did a fantastic job,” Horne said. “They got here quick. They had a quick attack on the fire, but of course, there was nothing at that point that could be done for the victim inside.”
The man had health problems that would have made it difficult for him to get out on his own, Horne said, and he was likely overtaken by the smoke.
“It’s a single-wide mobile home,” Horne said. “There was a smoke detector inside, but when you’re dealing with single-wides, they can go up in as little as five minutes.”
Katie Basinger said she saw a smoky haze from her home down the street and rushed to see what was happening. She called 911 and watched the firefighters work as the home was quickly engulfed in flame.
“Oxygen tanks were popping and electricity was sparking,” she said. “There’s nothing else they could’ve done. It wouldn’t have been safe for anybody to go in.”
Neighbors described Koontz as a kind, quiet man who waved when he saw them but mostly kept to himself. Until about a year ago, they often saw Koontz outside cleaning his motorcycle.
“I’ve never seen him ride it, but that bike was always clean,” Basinger said. “That was his baby.”
Wrangler Road runs off N.C. 801 near Cool Springs Road. Cone Drive is a private road off Wrangler with a number of mobile homes.
Responding to the fire were the Woodleaf, Cleveland, Cooleemee, Jerusalem and Scotch-Irish volunteer fire departments. The Rowan County rescue squad, sheriff’s office and fire marshal’s office also reported to the scene.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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