A funeral will be held Wednesday for an elderly woman who died trying to escape a fire that destroyed her 135-year-old home.
Orange County Fire Marshal Jason Shepherd said his office plans to work with private fire investigators to continue looking for the cause.
Firefighters found homeowner Emogene Thompson Cole, who lived alone, on a screened-in porch, Shepherd said.
“She was trying to get out,” he said.
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Cole, 83, was an active member of Damascus Congregational Christian Church. Her family will receive friends at the church at 2 p.m. Wednesday, with a service at 3 p.m. The church is located at 522 Damascus Church Road.
Cole will be buried in the Cole Family Cemetery on Smith Level Road.
She was born in 1932 to the late J.T. Thompson and his wife Bessie Mae Thompson, according to an obituary posted by Walker’s Funeral Home of Chapel Hill. She graduated from Chapel Hill High School and married Clarence Seaton Cole in September 1950. He preceded Cole in death.
She is survived by two daughters, Billie Cole Lewis and Janice Cole Morgan, grandson Derek Ryan Morgan, sister Nancy T. Ray and two nieces.
Firefighters with Carrboro Fire-Rescue, North Chatham Fire and White Cross Fire departments responded to 1144 Smith Level Road around 10:41 p.m. Friday, fire officials said. The Craftsman-style farmhouse, valued at $105,657, was fully engulfed in smoke and flames and was a total loss, officials said.
It took firefighters about 90 minutes to get the fire under control, officials said. Once the home’s structure started to collapse, Shepherd said, firefighters had to go on the defensive to prevent the situation from getting worse.
“They did a really good job to do what they needed to do,” he said.
One firefighter suffered a burned ear and another became dehydrated while fighting the blaze, officials said.
While fire patterns indicate the fire may have started above the first floor, Shepherd said, the collapsing house may have destroyed any evidence.
The family has asked that donations, in lieu of flowers, be made to The Cole Family Cemetery in care of Essell Womble, 2916 Damascus Church Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27516.