Local News

2 Men Die in Hoke House Fire

Posted February 20, 2008

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— Two Hoke County men were killed early Wednesday when their home was destroyed by fire, authorities said.

The fire started at about 5 a.m. Wednesday at 283 Lake Elizabeth Road, off N.C. Highway 211 west of Raeford. Investigators haven't officially determined the cause of the fire, but they said an old electrical heater used in a bedroom appears to have sparked the fire.

James McNair, 72, and his brother-in-law, Preston McPhaul, 65, died in the fire. The men were found on the floors of their bedrooms – at opposite ends of the house – and Hoke County Emergency Services Director Freddie Johnson said both appeared to have been overcome by smoke while trying to escape.

Relatives said McNair lived in the house for nearly 40 years and raised a family there. McPhaul had been living with him for several years, relatives said.

"I don't think I'll ever forget what I was feeling when I first came outside," said McNair's son, Joseph McNair, who lives next door.

The younger McNair said he had talked to his father before going to bed Tuesday night.

"He was good to everybody," Joseph McNair said. "He was somebody that everybody could depend on. If he could help somebody, he would."

James McNair was known in the neighborhood as a handyman who would do favors for anyone who asked.

"He was kind of like the taxi around here. You needed a ride, you know, you call Mr. J.C., (and) he'll be glad to come get you," family friend Billy Chapman said.

McPhaul was the quieter of the two men, and he liked to watch Clint Eastwood movies, Chapman said.

"He loved westerns," he said. "He'd watch a western all day long. He was a cowboy man."

North Raeford Fire Chief Johnny Baker said the fire spread quickly. Firefighters arrived at the house within two minutes of the call, and the roof was already collapsing, he said.


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  • Adelinthe Feb 20, 2008


    Praying for their loved ones.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • bronzegoddess40 Feb 20, 2008

    How sad. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two men.

  • Firefox 384 Feb 20, 2008

    Thoughts and prayers to the family's

  • seeingthru Feb 20, 2008

    I have been there myself, I was luckier, it doesn't take long once a building is fully involved such a shame

  • skinnycow Feb 20, 2008

    Peace and blessings go out to the families and friends of the deceased. It is sad that something like this was caused by an old electric heater where they were just trying to stay warm. Very sad and tragic.

  • Jayne Feb 20, 2008

    sorry for the family's loss but NRFD aint as good as this article says it is

  • PikeMom4real Feb 20, 2008

    Oh my! If this had to happen,I wish they had been asleep.What a horrific way to leave this world! I feel for the family in this oh so terrible time.