By Clint Confehr
Senior Staff Writer
A Marshall County woman and her two sons checked into a Lewisburg motel Monday night because their Bethbirei Road home burned to the ground just after dark.
"The fire started in one of the bedrooms," Farmington-Rich Creek Fire Chief Adam Orr said. Cynthia Maddox and her boys "returned from town, entered the residence, smelled smoke and saw the mattress ablaze.
"From what I can determine, the cause will be electrical," Orr said. "They had been having electrical problems. They'd just installed a new breaker and a mattress on a bed frame had been pushed up against an outlet."
The Farmington-Rich Creek Fire Department was dispatched at 5:19 p.m., the chief said. Berlin Fire Department is the "automatic aid" company.
"When the first units pulled in, Farmington called it in as totally involved," said Berlin Fire Chief Joe Greer. "It was a total loss."
The Maddox mobile home included "stick-built" additions and a separate structure serving as a roof over the mobile home, Greer said. Orr concurred, calling it a canopy roof over the original home.
The home was north of Bethbirei Presbyterian Church.
While the Maddox's car was not damaged, the small family "lost it all" in the fire, said James Barron of the Red Cross. The dwelling "burned to the ground."
Area residents are aware of the Maddox family's tragedy.
"A bunch of people have called me about the fire, wanting to donate to the Red Cross," Barron said.
The Marshall County Red Cross office in the county's Hardison Of-fice Annex on College Street is manned by volunteers. If someone is not in the office, phone calls to 359-1211 are forwarded to someone who is on duty.
The Red Cross has an account to temporarily house people at a local motel if they've lost their home to fire. Debit cards are provided for the purchase of new undergarments. Very affordable clothing and furnishings are available from the Goodwill and other organizations. Red Cross volunteers provide contacts and advice on how to overcome the challenge of loosing a home to fire.
When Farmington-Rich Creek volunteer firefighters arrived at the burning home on Monday night, thy immediately realized there was a propane tank about 10 feet from the structure, Berlin's fire chief said.
"I don't know why that's allowed," Greer said. "It's not unusual."
Firefighters immediately sought to cool the tank. It didn't explode.
Firefighters finished their work at approximately 9:30 p.m., having put down hot spots and salvaging what hadn't been destroyed, Orr said.
"They own the home," he said. "They have insurance."
Also responding to the emergency were the Chapel Hill Fire Department, the Marshall County Emergency Medical Service and the Marshall County Emergency Management Agency that, like the Chapel Hill Department, brought water supplies for pumper trucks.