Woman improving after fire


By Andy Winemiller - [email protected]



A Mount Airy woman is on a road to recovery after fire officials rescued her from a smoke-filled home Saturday.

Irene Faulkner Sechrist, 71, called for help at about 9:50 a.m. on Saturday. A fire had broken out in her home, located at 1872 Westfield Road.

Radio transmissions indicated Sechrist remained in the home even after she called 911.

Members of the Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department were holding a community day Saturday. Thus, about 15 firefighters were already at the station, according to Chief Scottie Chilton. Firefighters were at the scene of the blaze in about 90 seconds.

Chilton said Assistant Chiefs Jason Burkholder and Chris Baker located Sechrist and removed the woman from the structure upon their arrival at the home.

On Sunday, however, Burkholder clarified the turn of events which led up to Sechrist surviving the incident, noting firefighter Grant Welch also aided in locating Sechrist and pulling her from the home. The work of a dispatcher also made Sechrist’s rescue possible.

“(Telecommunicator) Darrell Danley gave information prior to the fire department’s arrival, his information that the lady was near the front door helped tremendously in the fast recovery of her,” explained Burkholder.

“Mrs. Sechrist was still on the phone when we found her, and she still had phone in her hand when we removed her from the house. Without the good information, it may have taken us longer to find her.”

“All agencies working together made this incident a success,” added Burkholder.

Chilton said the room in which the three firefighters found Seachrist was filled with smoke. Had Sechrist breathed the poisonous smoke for much longer, the situation may have proven fatal.

Instead, Sechrist, who was transported in critical but stable condition to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winson-Salem following the incident Saturday, is recovering.

“I spoke with EMS sources and they are advising that Mrs. Sechrist is improving and breathing on her own,” Burkholder stated. “She is still in intensive care.”

Chilton said there was much smoke damage to Sechrist’s home, especially to the room in which she was found. Though damage is extensive, the single-wide mobile home should not be a total loss for Sechrist.

Burkholder noted Sechrist had working smoke detectors in her home, which may have also played a role in Saturday’s turn of events. The reason Sechrist was unable to vacate the home under her own power is unknown.

The Four Way and Franklin Volunteer Fire Departments and the Mount Airy Fire Department aided Bannertown firefighters at the scene of the blaze, which was under control in less than ten minutes, according to Chilton.

Burkholder, who also works as an assistant fire marshal, said the fire started in a trash can under a kitchen counter. The specific cause of the fire is still under investigation.

By Andy Winemiller

[email protected]

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

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