Fire destroys couple's home

A fire destroyed an elderly couple’s home Wednesday in northern Catawba County.

Family and neighbors say a fire burst from a wood furnace at the home of Bill and Euella Winebarger at 5942 Hightower Road in Hickory. The flames completely engulfed the home and caused minor burns to Bill’s hands and ears, family members said.

Family members say the couple had just returned home around noon on Wednesday when the fire started.

Mark Helms, the couple’s son-in-law and neighbor, said Bill was checking on a wood furnace on the first floor of the family’s two-story home when the fire started. He said when Bill opened the doors to the machine, flames came rushing out and pushed the elderly man backward.

The couple exited the home quickly, and the fire rapidly engulfed the home, Helms said.

“I heard popping noises and came out. It was already engulfed,” Helms said. “It blew my mind how quick it was gone.”

The fire completely destroyed the back side of the home, where the furnace was located. The interior of the home was gutted and exposed, and pieces of the metal roof — nearly 30 feet long in sections — looked monstrous next to firefighters as they extinguished the blaze.

Randy Dellinger, who arrived on the scene just moments after the fire started, said the flames were “out of control.”

“The flames were 20 feet above the roof when I got here,” Dellinger said. “They weren’t far from the top of the trees.”

Firefighters from Oxford (Catfish), St. Stephens and Claremont fire departments responded to put out the blaze. Fire marshals are still investigating what exactly caused the fire to start.

Though family and friends are happy neither Bill nor Euella were injured seriously in the fire, they said the loss of the home is devastating.

“I just can’t believe how fast it happened,” said Carmen Warren, a neighbor who arrived second to the scene. “It’s amazing how long you take to build a house and then in 30 seconds, it’s gone.”