Firefighters save resident in burning home

By Tom Joyce -

A 22-year-old man survived a weekend blaze in the Flat Rock area, thanks to the efforts of two volunteer firefighters.

“We got the man out and he’s still alive,” said Bruce Crigger, chief of the Four-Way Volunteer Fire Department, the primary responder to the Sunday morning fire that heavily damaged a residence at 191 Belton Road located off N.C. 103.

“He would have perished,” Crigger added of Jonathan Hunter.

The fire was reported about 2:30 a.m. at the single-story, two-bedroom structure that was occupied by three people at the time. It is believed to have originated from a wood stove that spread flames to a wall which then engulfed the house.

In addition to Four-Way firefighters, members of the Bannertown and Franklin volunteer fire departments responded.

“The fire was coming through the roof and around the chimney,” Crigger said of the scene they encountered, which also included a life-threatening revelation:

“There was a lady standing in the yard and she said there was an occupant still in the house,” the Four-Way fire chief explained. That individual was identified as Hunter, 22, of 236 Gwyn Ave., Mount Airy, but the name of the female was not available Monday.

The first two firefighters who entered the structure, Four-Way’s John Hawks and Dale Gammons, encountered fire that was between them and where Hunter subsequently was located in the house.

“They knocked it down, then they went on with their search,” Crigger said.

“They found him (Hunter) in the back bedroom — he was still conscious and breathing, but he was disoriented and couldn’t find his way out,” the fire chief said.

The flames had spread through the living room, kitchen and ceiling. “It wouldn’t have been long until the roof collapsed,” Crigger said.

Hunter complained of respiratory stress, and was checked out for burns at the scene by the Surry County Emergency Medical Service.

After being administered oxygen, the man refused further treatment. “He didn’t have any serious injuries,” EMS Director John Shelton related.

James Dean Sawyers was identified as the third occupant of the structure at the time of the fire as well as being the owner of the residence, which is split into two apartments, according to county tax records.

Sawyers reportedly had left the scene before firefighters arrived.

In addition to the three volunteer fire departments and the Surry EMS, the Mount Airy Rescue Squad responded to the scene along with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office and the American Red Cross.

The latter agency supplied emergency housing to Hunter and the unidentified female.

By Tom Joyce