Two homes lost in Stoney Creek, Jackson Avenue fires

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   Carter County volunteer firefighters burned up the roads Monday responding to three calls on two separate structure fires, as well as traffic accidents and medical assists.
   Around noon, firemen from Stoney Creek, Hampton, Watauga and Central Volunteer Fire Departments traveled approximately 16 miles up Stoney Creek to the home of Lisa Walker, 2869 Hwy. 91, on a report of a structure fire.
   According to Carter County Sheriff's Department Deputy Todd Hamm, Walker and her 17-year-old daughter were home at the time and were alerted to the fire by neighbors.
   "They said, 'We smelled something but didn't know what was on fire.' They were able to get some of the furniture and other belongings out before it spread through the house," Deputy Hamm said.
   Deborah Holtsclaw, who lives across the street from Walker, said she had just gone into the kitchen and was looking out the window at a bag in her driveway, "trying to determine exactly what it was -- if somebody had lost something off of a truck or if it was just a bag blowing around -- and that was when I saw smoke coming out of the bedroom window.
   "I told my husband, 'Walker's house is on fire.'"
   While Russell Holtsclaw and son, Rusty, were running across the street to knock on Walker's door, Deborah was calling 911.
   "They couldn't get anybody to the door" at first, she said, but as her husband and son continued knocking on the door, Walker and her daughter came through to let their pets out and were alerted that something was wrong.
   "The daughter had just woken up and had just went back to the den with her mother," Deborah said. "She (Walker) stated that she didn't know the house was even on fire."
   Russell and Rusty helped the family carry out some of their belongings before heat and flames made it impossible. Cause of the fire is undetermined.
   One Watauga firefighter was treated and released at Johnson City Medical Center after he was overcome by smoke and heat while helping extinguish the blaze, however, he was back on the job Monday night when firefighters were called out again.
   According to David Nichols, president of Carter County Fire Association, it was just a hectic day.
   Late Monday, after battling the Stoney Creek fire in noontime temperatures approaching 90 degrees, Central firefighters were on their way to Watauga to train with firefighters there on using their new dry pump. Along the way, however, they encountered an automobile accident at Malfunction Junction which resulted in a gasoline spill and stopped to assist Elizabethton responders.
   Then while in training, both Watauga and Central were called out to assist Hampton and Stoney Creek fire departments with back-to-back calls to a structure fire at 171 Jackson Ave.
   Firefighters responded around 10:30 p.m. last Monday to the same residence, owned by Tammy Woodby, to battle a barn fire. Woodby told sheriff's department Sgt. Penny Cornett that she heard something outside and when she went to look, she found her barn was on fire. Woodby said the barn had no electricity.
   Ed McNeil of Hampton Volunteer Fire Department said firefighters were called back to the residence around 7 p.m. yesterday after Woodby said she smelled something around her water heater.
   "We checked everything and found a charred wire under the water heater and disconnected the main power to the house and advised the owner to have an electrician look at it before they had the power cut back on. I have no idea if they cut it back on or not," he said.
   At 9:03 p.m., McNeil said, "We were back down there again. This time it was a fully involved structure fire. It was a total loss." He said no one was home when firefighters responded the second time. Carter County Sheriff's Department is investigating.
   "We've run Rittertown to death, too," McNeil said. "Last week we had two trailer fires -- actually three. We went and put one out and five days later we had to go right back on it. Half of it burned down then. And then two days later, we went to the trailer beside it."