Fire forces family to move

Friday, February 4, 2011
Ginny Keel, 17, is comforted by her grandparents, Margaret and Ron Hicks, immediately after she's told one of her pets died in their house fire. She and other children had a guinea pig and two hamsters.

The grandfather of five youngsters in an extended family -- forced from their apartment on Fourth Avenue -- has faith that his church can help them bounce back from a Wednesday afternoon fire near Harmon Park.

"I know my church will help," Ron Hicks, a member of New Life Community Church on Easy Street, said standing in front of the two-unit apartment house as Lewisburg firefighters rolled hoses for their place on three fire trucks that responded to the blaze.

Hicks' wife, Margaret, said, "It won't bring pictures of memories back, but they're going to need help."

Grandfather Hicks acknowledged that the New Life congregation is small, so the Rev. Terry Mills, an employee of Sloan Ford, could be a conduit for additional assistance.

Nearby, tears stained the cheeks of Ginny Keel, daughter of Paul Keel, when she was handed the lifeless body of one of the family pets wrapped in a towel. The Keel children: Ginny, 17; Hunter, 13; Haley, 5; and Jennifer Chunn, 17, and Shawn Wray, 9, had one guinea pig and two hamsters.

"They are their babies," Margaret Hicks said.

Paul Keel, 46, the head of the household, is engaged to be married to Mona Wray, they said.

"I could see the flames coming out the window," College Street resident Kristy Harlan, 34, said from her driveway near the apartment house back yard. "It's sad," Harlan said for her friends.

She knows Anthony McMillan who was living on the other side of the building that burned. McMillan said he thought the fire's origin might have been electrical.

McMillan and Clarence Fleming, 37, said they were residents of the "B Side" of the building. Fleming moved there from Chapel Hill and was talking with the landlord's son, Garry Love II, who manages the property for his father.

The Loves have owned the building for 2-3 years, the son said.

James Barron, the local Red Cross officer, was present to help the residents find temporary lodging. Love said he and his father have other units that were available.

Fire Chief Larry Williams said he believes the apartment house remains structurally sound, so it could be repaired.