Friends narrowly escape mobile home fire

Kara Fohner, News-Topic, Lenoir, N.C.
·3 min read

May 3—Michael Reid was sitting in his room playing a video game online about 5:20 a.m. on Sunday when he happened to glance at his window and saw an orange glow behind his blackout curtains.

"I thought somebody was just screwing around on the porch. ... I went outside to see," he said.

When he opened the door he saw "just (a) wall of flame. So I slammed the door and took off running," he said.

The porch of Reid's mobile home on Meadowlane Drive was in flames, and the fire was quickly spreading.

Reid's roommates woke to him screaming that there was a fire.

Brianna Bumgarner said, "I wasn't sure what he was talking about. I thought he was talking about like a grease fire, so I ran to the living room to see if we could put it out. I saw the porch. ... It was already burnt up. It was making its way towards the living room."

They, Bumgarner's boyfriend, Allen Amatuccio, Reid, and Kelsey Conner made it out.

Their two dogs, a boxer mix named Buddy and a Yorkshire terrier mix named Benji, and their two cats, a Siamese named Venus and an orange tabby named Reese, did not.

Amatuccio said that as they fled the growing fire, they thought that their animals were following, but there was little time to check on them.

They recently have been preparing to start a business breeding and selling reptiles, so there were 19 snakes in the house, and firefighters were able to rescue 15 of them.

Otherwise, they lost almost everything they owned.

Amatuccio and Bumgarner had intended to celebrate their six-year anniversary on Sunday. Bumgarner said her plan was to work, then come home to Amatuccio, who was going to make dinner for them.

Instead, they spent Sunday trying to absorb the loss of their home, their belongings, and their pets. On Monday, they were calm — Bumgarner said she had run out of tears — but still seemed shellshocked.

Reid, who struggles with insomnia, said he is grateful he was awake — if they all had been sleeping, he thinks they might have died. The friends he was online gaming with heard him trying to wake the others, figured out Caldwell County's emergency number, and called for help.

April Bivens, Bumgarner's mother, said that Brianna called her frantically, and "all I heard was the screaming. ... I didn't know what was going on." In a panic herself, she got dressed and hurried to the mobile home.

The mobile home was owned by Bivens' mother, Betty Pritchard, and it was not covered by an insurance plan.

Deputy Chief Kenny Story said that investigators think that the fire was caused by a heater that had an exhaust pipe that opened near the deck. Somehow, he said, the heater ignited something on the deck, and the flames quickly spread to the rest of the mobile home.

Bumgarner said that the group's first priority is to figure out what to do about their reptiles, as the equipment used to keep them was destroyed in the fire. Then, she said, they'll try to find a place to live together. Right now, they are staying with family.

"We just need to get in a place and get settled," she said.

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.