2011-05-27 / Front Page

Fire victim critical but stable

By TIM GULLA Ledger Staff Writer tim@gaffneyledger.com

Mary Elizabeth Watkins, 84, is carried from her burning Kendrick Street home Wednesday. 
(Ledger photo / TIM GULLA) Mary Elizabeth Watkins, 84, is carried from her burning Kendrick Street home Wednesday. (Ledger photo / TIM GULLA) An 84-year-old Gaffney woman, rescued from her burning home by firefighters Wednesday, was listed in critical but stable condition Thursday afternoon at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga., a hospital spokeswoman confirmed.

Fire broke out at 503 Kendrick St. just before noon Wednesday and Gaffney firefighters were informed from the outset of possible entrapment. They immediately forced entry to the home and searched for any occupants while battling the flames, said Fire Chief Nathan Ellis.

Mary Elizabeth Watkins, 84, was located in a back bedroom and carried to safety outside.

Firefighters then repeatedly searched for a second occupant, Gloria Watkins, but ultimately received word that she was safe at another location.

Following initial treatment by Upstate Carolina Medical Center paramedics, Mary Watkins was flown directly by the Spartanburg-based Regional One emergency transport helicopter to the burn center in Augusta.

The Cherokee County Fire Investigation Team was called in Wednesday afternoon to investigate the cause of the fire and Ellis said the investigators traced the blaze to an electrical outlet in a bedroom at the front of the home. A space heater was plugged into the outlet and the space heater’s power switch was turned on.

“Those things draw a lot of current,” Ellis said. “We’re not sure how long it had been left on.”

The home at 503 Kendrick St. is completely surrounded by tall and dense vegetation that practically makes the home unnoticeable from the street.

“We’re very lucky a neighbor saw the smoke,” Ellis said. “When I got there, I couldn’t see the smoke because of all the vegetation.”

While Ellis did not use names in referring to the fire victims, he said the woman pulled from the home was found in her bed. Neighbors on the street indicated the woman was bedridden.

“Our guys did a really good job,” Ellis said. “They did everything their training told them to do.”

Ellis also lauded the EMS personnel from Upstate Carolina Medical Center for their quick response and the immediate medical treatment they provided.

Fire Training and Safety Officer Scott Coleman had said Wednesday that the door to the bedroom where the woman was found was closed, slowing the progression of smoke and keeping the flames from reaching her before firefighters arrived.

Firefighters from the Grassy Pond and Corinth volunteer fire departments responded to the city to assist at the scene and handle any additional calls.

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