CAMDEN — An early morning fire Friday destroyed a mobile home and killed the occupant, but the cause was not immediately known.
Four units from South Camden Fire Department and two units from Elizabeth City Fire Department responded to a structure fire in the 200 block of N.C. Highway South 343 Friday morning at 3:56 a.m., according to County Manager Mike Renshaw.
The doublewide mobile home was a total loss and its only occupant was reported dead, he said.
The victim’s identity could not be released pending notification of family, Renshaw said. The body was transported to Albemarle Hospital, then to the medical examiner’s office in Greenville, he said.
While Renshaw said it couldn’t be determine if the cause was weather-related, he said firefighters told him winds from Hurricane Arthur fueled the flames.
The fire marshal is investigating the fire, with assistance from Camden County Sheriff’s Office.
“It was horrific,” neighbor Barbara Bartlett said of the fire that prompted her to call 9-1-1.
Bartlett, 71, said her cat woke her up around 3 a.m., and when she opened the door to let the cat out, she noticed flames reaching above the cornfield that is across from her home on N.C. Highway 343 South.
The wind and rain Hurricane Arthur’s outer bands brought were whipping through the area at that time.
Bartlett said she was worried because she knew three mobile homes were in the area of the fire, although she does not have a view of them from her house because of the cornfield.
“The trees in the backyard are about as high as the blaze was,” she said, pointing. “I’ve never seen a fire like that.”
Seeing no emergency vehicles nor any sign of anyone doing anything, “I couldn’t stand it any longer,” she said, and called 9-1-1.
The fire trucks’ response time was swift, but “they were fighting not only the fire, but they were fighting the rain (and) fighting the wind,” she noted.
Bartlett said the deceased man attended her church — Camden United Methodist Church.
“I think of his child who ... just lost her dad,” Bartlett said, tearing up.
Another neighbor, wishing to remain anonymous, said the daughter is approximately 16 years old and usually stayed with her father on weekends, but was fortunately at her mother’s house Thursday night.
“He was an awesome father,” the neighbor said. “His daughter was his world.”
Another neighbor, also on condition of anonymity, said the deceased was 46 years old and was “a very pleasant young man” and “a good daddy.”
Yellow caution tape encircled the burnt mobile home and was attached to a gray Nissan Xterra with a “United States Navy” decal as well as to the steps leading to a pool in the backyard. Only the home’s brick foundation and front steps were intact.
Several posts from the walls and a section of one wall were burnt but standing, but the fire gutted the entire inside of the home. A charred stove and other appliances had spilled onto the backyard.
Across the street, Donald Judge said he was in town to visit his daughter, who had lived in the area for about two years.
“I woke up at 4:30 (a.m.) because all the red lights were blinking,” he said, adding that he saw five fire trucks.
“They couldn’t control that fire because of all the wind,” he said. “I was certainly sorry to hear the man died.”
Judge said that he found out the man did not survive when he went to the Duck Thru for morning coffee.
His daughter did not know the man personally, he said, but had seen him cutting his grass around 9 p.m. Thursday night.
“There’s been a lot of activity over there today,” Judge said.
One truck pulled into the mobile home’s driveway early Friday evening, and a man stepped out and woefully surveyed the damage.
He said he lives with the deceased’s ex-wife and daughter, but would not provide a statement because he was not an immediate family member.