Local News

2 Men Die in Hoke House Fire

Posted February 20, 2008 12:24 p.m. EST
Updated February 20, 2008 4:26 p.m. EST

— 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.