Log in Newsletter


Bill Kirby Jr.: Fire can be deadly and without conscience


Should a fire break out in your home when you are asleep, take it from T.J. McLamb, you have no time to tarry.  

About two minutes, the city fire marshal says. 

We’d like to help inform residents here of precautions they can take this winter season,” McLamb, 49, says in light of two deadly fires recently in Philadelphia and New York that claimed the lives of 31 people, including 18 children. “These type events have a tremendous impact on many families and also for the first-responders who protect those communities.” 

Among those firefighters who are there when a fire breaks out is Freddy Johnson, the longtime chief at Stoney Point Fire Department, stations 13 and 19, in southern Cumberland County. His firefighters were on the scene Sunday when flames engulfed a two-story home at Lake Upchurch in Parkton. 

The homeowner reported that after returning from a trip to a nearby store he noticed smoke coming from around his bedroom ceiling fan, Johnson says. The homeowner attempted to put out the fire as the home filled with heavy smoke.  

Thirty-four firefighters from the Parkton, Cotton, Cumberland Road, Hope Mills, Rockfish, Hoke County and Robeson County fire departments worked more than three hours to contain the fire that destroyed the home. The homeowner escaped with only the clothes on his back, Johnson says, and is now being assisted by the American Red Cross.  

“Yes, he did stand outside and watch his home burn down,” Johnson says. “It is totally burned out. Only the garage was saved. When we arrived, he only had on a pair of pants, socks and (a) body shirt, and was wet. 

“ It was 34 degrees at one point.  

 “A neighbor provided dry clothes and shoes, and I had him sit in his truck to warm up,” Johnson says. “He did have a small dog that made it out also.”  

A fire of any kind, whether it’s your home or your business, can be devastating and in the worst-case scenario deadly.  

Even though the Lake Upchurch Road homeowner lost his home, he can consider himself fortunate.  

He survived. So did his dog.  

Johnson knows what fire can do, and he is right alongside McLamb and the Fayetteville Fire Department in offering precautions all of us can take when it comes to protecting ourselves, our family and our home. 

Protect yourself 

“Having a smoke alarm can reduce the chances of death by 55%,” McLamb says, quoting from national statistics. “We have a smoke alarm program. We will install them for free.”

He says this also is a good time of year to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home.  

He said people also should have a fire evacuation plan and discuss it with their family members.

“We take it for granted,” he says, when it comes to planning ahead for a fire. “Discuss the two ways out the doors of the home, and about windows. If you have that plan, practice that plan. It comes back to you in case of a fire, and you’ll remember.” 

He also reminds people that when they retire for the evening, a closed door can slow the spread of fire and reduce smoke levels.  

“It’s called ‘close before you doze,’ ” McLamb says, and can be a life-saver. “It allows you time to get out.” 

He says many fires start in the kitchen. 

“When you are cooking, stand by your frying pan to reduce the potential for cooking fires,” McLamb says. Too often we neglect our ranges because of distractions, including “that phone in hand.” 

He also urges people to use caution with space heaters.  

“Three-foot clearance,” McLamb says. “We can’t reiterate it enough. Many have tip-over protection. And if you use a kerosene heater, make sure you refill it outside. If you’re like me, you’re going to spill some.” 

And spilled kerosene in your home can be a blaze in waiting. 


“While we continue to pray for those involved,” McLamb says about the loss of 12 people, nine of them children, in the Jan. 5 fire that tore through a row of apartments in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia and the Jan. 9 fire that left 19 people and nine children dead in the Bronx in New York, “we can also use this as a time to reflect on our own homes to put in place or practice fire safety.”  

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.  

Column, fire safety, smoke alarm