It was after 2 AM. The weather was cold. The house was warm. Then the smoke detector sounded. A short time later, the man who lived in the house on NC27 west of Lincolnton was safely outside; firemen from Howard's Creek, Crouse and Lincolnton fire departments were fighting the fire that destroyed much of his home and could have claimed his life had it not been for the smoke detector.
It was the second chimney fire call to which Howard's Creek firemen had responded in less than a week.
Lincoln County Fire Marshal Mike Futrell, who was called to investiage the cause of the fire, said it was good that the home had smoke detectors--that most likely saved the life of the resident. But Futrell said it's also important that people have their chimneys inspected and cleaned.
Another seasonal danger hasn't yet destroyed any homes or caused any major damage, but the possibility looms. Futrell noted that Lincoln County fire departments have answered at least five calls this fall to locations where people burning leaves either let them get out of control or left them thinking the fire was out only to be surprised later when it caught back up and spread.
An ounce of prevention may well be worth a pound of cure, the old saying goes. The cause of a huge fire in the North Carolina mountains that is still burning after it started on Veterans Day is an example of what can happen. The cause of that fire is still not known.
Futrell also repeated the advice to "change your batteries when you change your clock." Fire officials have long emphasized that it's a good idea to change the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when changing the clock for the switch from daylight time to standard time.