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Fire drives 10 from homes

South Boston News
Fred Quinn next to his ruined residence, a rented trailer home. / January 20, 2014
A South Boston couple lost all of their possessions when their rented trailer home caught fire Friday, with the flames spreading to two other singlewides parked next door.

The blaze left all three trailers uninhabitable and forced 10 people from their homes, although the two adjoining trailers may be usable after repairs are made.

The couple that lived in the gutted trailer — Fred Quinn and Portia Seate — were inside when Quinn heard a loud popping sound from an outdoor socket. Seconds later, he said, he saw flames lapping up an interior wall, catching a curtain on fire. Quinn said he tried to put out the blaze, but it spread quickly and he and Seate had to get outside quickly.

“We lost everything,” he said at the scene Friday.

It all happened very suddenly around noontime. Firefighters received the emergency call at 12:22 p.m. Firefighters from South Boston, Cluster Springs, Turbeville and Midway rushed to the scene.

The trailer was parked tightly together with other singlewide rental homes at a trailer park next to Gene’s Orange Market on U.S. 58. By the time fire crews arrived, the trailer home at Lot 32 was fully involved, said South Boston Fire Chief Steve Phillips.

There was no chance of saving anything other than a few assorted charred items from the flames.

Phillips said two other residences, in Lots 31 and 33, were also damaged as the blaze singed their exteriors. The trailers were packed closely together, about 20 feet apart.

The two adjoining trailers sustained damages of about $1,000 each, with windows shattered by the heat. Firefighters also had to strip away portions of each trailer to check for the possibility of smoldering wires. Each of the dilapidated units had a value of about $10,000, said Phillips.

Only one person, Portia Seate, was injured in the incident. Phillips said she was treated on the scene for burn wounds that he described as minor.

Both of the lesser-damaged trailers were homes to residents of the trailer park. Inside one lived two people, only one of whom was at home Friday when the fire started. Inside the other trailer were five children whose mother apparently was away at the store. They escaped harm after seeing the fire next door and rushing outside.

Electricity to all three trailers was cut after the fire, and it was uncertain when, or if, the residents would be able to return to their homes.

The American Red Cross is assisting the inhabitants of all three homes, he said.

On several occasions, Quinn said, he had spoken to the landlord about the popping sound outside his trailer. He said he believes the sound came from a shorted wire, but nothing was ever done about the problem.

A caretaker at the trailer park said the owner, who he did not identify, was away in the Norfolk area at the time.

Quinn said he didn’t know exactly what he and Seate would do next, although they may seek shelter with her family.

According to Phillips, Quinn indicated that he and Seate were asleep when they were awakened by the popping sound. Firefighters have not established the cause of the fire.

Responding to the emergency were 12 South Boston firefighters and two trucks, and eight firefighters and two trucks from both the Turbeville and Cluster Springs Volunteer Fire Departments. Midway also sent one truck and three members.

Elsewhere in the county, firefighters with the North Halifax Volunteer Fire Department, assisted by Brookneal, responded Friday morning to a trailer home fire at 1018 Thorntons Road in the Nathalie area. Firefighters declared that the blaze was caused by electrical problems. The mobile home was destroyed and one person was left homeless. No further details were available.

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