Firefighters rushed into burning building to save couple, but were too late

Feb. 7—Firefighters and a deputy rushed into the burning home of Homer and Marie James on Chambers Mountain Sunday afternoon after getting a 911 call from neighbors who saw smoke. Sadly, they found the James' had already died from the fire and smoke inhalation.

"They did a great job as far as entering the building and pulling the folks out of the residence," Clyde Fire Chief Wentfard Henson said. "The main thing was just getting those folks out of the house."

The first on the scene were asenior firefighter and assistant fire chief from Clyde, who did not wish to be named, and Deputy Sean Aaron with the Haywood County Sheriff's Office.

"Deputy Aaron represents the best of law enforcement," Haywood County Sheriff Bill Wilke said. "I'm proud to say that he along with many others in the sheriff's office would do the same under any given circumstances to risk their own lives to save others. Our sincerest heartfelt condolences go to the families of the victims. My prayer is they find peace in the very near future."

The neighbor who called 911 had informed the dispatch that the elderly couple — Homer, 93, and Marie, 84 — were likely at home. When firefighters arrived, they saw the door to the residence was open, so they jumped into action.

"One of the first things we do is a primary search," Henson said. "It's just a quick hasty search to go through the house."

Firefighters will scan areas where people could be trapped. Following the search and recovery, the firefighters went to work dealing with the flames. The fire was put out in less than 10 minutes, Henson said.

Clyde, North Canton, Canton, Crabtree and Junaluska Fire Departments were all on the scene as well.

The investigation relating to the cause of the fire was turned over to the State Bureau of Investigation.