Children injured in Saturday blaze

Published 10:21 am Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WINTON – Two young children, critically injured during a three-alarm residential apartment fire here early Saturday morning, have been moved to a burn treatment center in Ohio.

Meanwhile, the cause of the blaze has been pinpointed to an electrical space heater.

Winton Fire Chief James Broglin told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that two of Mary Riddick’s three children were still inside the two-story Main Street residence when firefighters arrived around 8 a.m.

The two children, ages 7 and 11, were transported by Hertford County EMS to Roanoke-Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie and later taken to Norfolk Sentera General Hospital.

On Monday, Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan said the two young victims were separately airlifted late Saturday night to the burn care unit at Shriner’s Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Sheriff said both remain in critical condition.

Riddick and a younger child (age unknown) were out of the residence upon arrival of the firemen, Broglin said. Neither suffered injuries.

Broglin said the wood-framed residence, owned by Clyde P. Ruffin of Winton, was divided into two apartments, one upstairs and the other downstairs. Riddick and her three children lived in the downstairs apartment. The upstairs living space was unoccupied.

Chief Broglin credited two separate teams of Winton firemen – James Cannette/James Cannette Jr. and Michael Hedgepeth/William Askew for making their way into the heavy smoke and rescuing the two children.

“I can’t say enough about the excellent work ethic of every fireman in our county,” Sheriff Vaughan said. “In this particular case, the long hours of training put in by these Winton firemen paid off as they were able to save the lives of two young children. They put their lives at risk to save others.”

Personnel with the Winton Fire Department, located less than a block away from the scene, responded quickly with 22 men and four units. Mutual aid assistance was provided by Station 1 (Ahoskie Fire Dept.) and Station 6 (Murfreesboro Fire Dept.). Each responded with two units, including Murfreesboro’s ladder truck that was used extensively to reach the flames.

Meanwhile, Hertford County Sheriff’s deputies closed off Main Street in order to give the firemen easy access to the blaze.

There was no damage to nearby structures and none of the 40-plus firefighters on the scene suffered any injuries.

Broglin said the residence was a total loss. He said on Saturday he felt sure the cause was accidental in nature, a fact now proven with the fire linked to the space heater.

Winton firemen remained on the scene until 2:36 p.m.

Broglin thanked the responding fire departments for their assistance as well as thanking Hertford County EMS and the Hertford County Sheriff’s deputies. Additionally, the fire chief thanked the owner of Winton’s Corner Café for opening his doors and providing beverages and food, at no cost, to the firefighters.

(Editor’s Note: The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald thanks John D. Friis of Franklin, Va. – a professional fireman with the Naval Base in Norfolk, Va. and a volunteer firefighter with the Franklin, Va. Fire Department – for providing the photographs for this story.)