Man describes rescue efforts in fatal fire
BY PORTSIA SMITH
Caroline County investigators are waiting for the Medical Examiner’s Office in Richmond to positively identify the victim in Sunday’s fatal fire, but those who tried to help said it was an elderly woman who lived in the home.
“We tried to save her,” said Jodon McKendree of Spotsylvania County.
He was in the Corbin area to visit family in the Cedar Ridge Mobile Home Park, but his quick visit turned into a rescue mission when he saw smoke coming from a nearby house.
He said he yelled for his wife, Heather, to call 911 while he banged on the door to see if anyone was inside.
“This place is on fire,” he screamed to his brother-in-law Edwin Lacy, as they kicked down the front door.
He said smoke poured out of the house, and the two men crawled four feet into the house on their hands and knees before they became overwhelmed by the black smoke.
Neighbor Kay Braswell, who told McKendree that she was the woman’s caretaker, had a key to the back door that led to the kitchen.
The men went in, but the smoke was too much, he said.
Not wanting to give up, they tried to kick out the window to the woman’s bedroom. No luck.
Braswell warned them that the woman was on oxygen and had recently received a delivery.
Later, he said they heard the oxygen tank burst.
“It sounded like an explosion, or like a jet engine and it just added fuel to the flames,” he said.
He said the house was fully engulfed, and he said that firefighters found the woman’s remains in the kitchen area.
“We were too late,” McKendree said. “If she was on oxygen, the smoke itself would have been just too much.”
Major Scott Moser of the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that two cats had also died in the fire.
McKendree didn’t know the woman, but said he didn’t hesitate to try to rescue her.
“I would want somebody to do the same for me if it was my house or my family,” he said.
Fire-EMS Chief David Layman said the 911 call was received at 3:56 p.m. at 4017 Corbin Court about a structure fire with a possible entrapment.
Units from Upper Caroline, Bowling Green, Port Royal, Ladysmith volunteer fire departments and Caroline County Sheriff Office were dispatched. No injuries to firefighters were reported.
The first unit arrived on scene within 10 minutes to find heavy smoke and fire coming from the double wide mobile home, Layman said. Additional mutual aid assistance was requested from Fort A.P. Hill Fire Department and Spotsylvania County Fire Department, he said.
Layman said it took firefighters over an hour to bring the fire under control. The structure was completely damaged.
The cause and origin of the fire is under investigation.
It was unknown if the residence had an operational smoke detector, Layman said.
Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419