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Couple safe after home burns
A home at 9359 Chatham Road in Henry County was destroyed by fire Wednesday. The homeowners, Jesse Shelton and his wife, Lucille, had lived there since 1964 and lost almost all of their belongings. (Bulletin photo by Ashley Jackson)
Thursday, June 21, 2012
By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
Jesse Shelton is grateful that he and his wife, Lucille, were not injured in a fire that destroyed their house early Wednesday.
But watching as his home of nearly half a century burned before his eyes was difficult, to say the least.
“It was bad, I tell you,” Shelton said about watching the blaze.
The Sheltons have lived at the home at 9359 Chatham Road since 1964.
The fire was called into the 911 center at 12:45 a.m., according to Henry County Fire Marshal Rodney Howell. The fire, which started in the attic, has been ruled an electrical fire, he added.
The home was insured, and Howell expects the insurance company will rule it a total loss, he said, adding that the Sheltons basically lost everything. They salvaged only a few personal possessions.
At about a quarter past midnight, Jesse Shelton was watching television in the living room after his wife had gone to bed. He remembers smoking a cigarette and putting it out in the ashtray. After that, he smelled smoke, he said.
Shelton immediately thought he hadn’t put his cigarette out completely and looked at the ashtray to find the cigarette was not causing the smell of smoke, he added.
He soon noticed something else out of the ordinary. Every night, his wife leaves a light on for him in the bedroom so that he can see to climb into bed, he said. But as he began walking down the hallway early Wednesday, he noticed the bedroom light wasn’t on.
He went to turn the light on in the hallway, but it wouldn’t work. The lights in the living room still were lit, Shelton added.
Still trying to figure out what was going on, he walked over to a window. When he looked outside, he noticed light flickering against the trees. He walked outside to find that the flickering was coming from flames in the attic of his home, he said.
Shelton rushed back inside to wake his wife. The couple called 911 while still inside, and they were able to get out quickly and safely, Jesse Shelton said.
He and his wife realized that because the fire started in the attic, it had to be an electrical fire. So they turned off the main switch inside of the breaker box before fire crews arrived, he said.
Because the fire was confined to the attic at the time, they were outside for a while before the fire alarms went off inside, Shelton added.
At the time, the Sheltons figured the fire would stay in the attic, but that was not the case. Once fire crews arrived at 12:56 a.m., it was difficult for them to put the fire out, Shelton said, adding that when crews contained the fire in one room, it would erupt in another.
Shelton said he thinks it was a blessing that he was awake when the blaze began because that allowed him to get himself and his wife out safely.
Howell said he recommends that people put smoke alarms in their attics in case a fire starts there, but he added that the Sheltons could not have done that because they had no access in their home to the attic.
Right now, Howell is unsure how the fire started in the electrical wiring of the home, he said. Many times, electrical fires originate from an appliance or an extension cord; an electrical fire starting in the wiring of the home is rare, he added.
The Sheltons are staying with relatives, Howell said.
Responding to the call were the Dyers Store Volunteer Fire Department, Axton Volunteer Fire Department, Henry County Public Safety and the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, according to Howell.