By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Greenville firefighters have started a Christmas gift replacement drive in response to a house fire Tuesday that consumed all the Christmas presents for three children.
Toys for a 9-year-old girl, a 4-year-old boy and a 3-year-old boy – the children of Mary Ealy and Derek Means – and gift cards can be dropped off at the fire station, said Chief Steve Thompson.
The fire at 51 N. Wood St. Ext. could have been much worse if Ealy had not heard a noise coming from the second floor, where all three children were sleeping, when she did, Thompson said. She discovered the fire and got the children out safely.
“It is possible a few minutes later the fire would have grown to the extent that the mother would not have been able to reach the children,” Thompson said.
“This was close,” he said. “This was the closest we’ve had to a tragedy in a while.”
The home had two smoke detectors, but the batteries had been removed and Thompson implored residents to keep detectors in working order.
“Working smoke detectors would have provided a much earlier warning of the fire,” he said, noting firefighters were called at 8:32 p.m. “I can’t stress enough the need for working smoke detectors on every level of every residence.”
A faulty electrical outlet is believed to have been the source of the fire, which has been ruled an accident, he said.
Flames were contained to second floor rear bedroom – the children were in front bedrooms – and the second floor sustained heat and smoke damage, Thompson said.
American Red Cross is assisting the family, a spokeswoman said.
Building owner William Hamilton of Kinsman has insurance, but the family did not have renter’s insurance.