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House Fire Claims Henderson Man's Life

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HENDERSON — AVance Countyhouse fire took one person's life and left a woman fighting for her own, but firefighters say it could have been prevented.

A simple smoke detector could have saved the life of a Henderson man Friday morning.

There were no smoke detectors in the house where the deadly fire broke out.Firefightersbelieve if there had been, the outcome would have been markedly different.

"He was a real good friend of the family. My mother gave him a lifetime home before she died," said friend Ruth Bunston.

James Burwell died in a second floor bedroom of the house he shared with friends. He died while struggling to get out, with only a window between fresh air and the thick smoke that choked him.

"The firefighter said you could see the man's fingertips on the windowsill. You could tell he was in a position of trying to crawl out," said Henderson Fire Chief Daniel Wilkerson.

The house has been in Esther Hawley's family for years. Her sister, Maureen Edmonson, was also home when the fire broke out just after 6 a.m.

Edmonson escaped, but she was badly burned before she made it to the front porch where firefighters found her.

"It hurts. It's still hurting. Maureen was my sister, and he (Burwell) was just like a brother," said Hawley.

TheSBIis looking into the cause of the fire, although investigators believe it was a tragic accident. They think the fire started in the room next to the one in which Burwell was sleeping.

"Nothing looked real suspicious in there. It may have been on the order of an accidental fire," said Wilkerson.

The fire was put out within just a few minutes, but the smoke overcame the victims quickly.

Edmonson is in critical condition at the UNC Burn Center.


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