Eastern Wake News

Wendell family loses everything in house fire

A fire believed to have started from the electrical system, destroyed the Wendell Boulevard home of David and Amy Armstrong on Nov. 15.
A fire believed to have started from the electrical system, destroyed the Wendell Boulevard home of David and Amy Armstrong on Nov. 15. kbettis@newsobserver.com

Less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, a Wendell family find themselves without a place to call home after a fire gutted the house they were renting on Wendell Boulevard.

Now the community is working to help them recover.

At 4:14 a.m. on Nov. 15, the Wendell Fire Department received a call that a one-story home at 3003 Wendell Boulevard was on fire.

David Armstrong and Amy Armstrong, along with their daughter Gabby, 16, son Isaiah, 18, grandsons Zayden, 5 months, and Zymere, 1, and nephews Jermain and Daniel escaped with no injuries.

Armstrong said that her daughter, who attends East Wake High School, has not been able to return to class because she doesn’t have any clothes.

The community has already reached out to the family, with help from individuals and a Facebook rally.

“The community has been awesome,” Armstrong said.

Melodie Smith was driving to the grocery store Saturday morning and saw the burned out frame of the house.

“No one was there. It was eerie,” she said. “I had driven by the night before. The next day, it was burned.”

Amy Armstrong’s phone number was written on a cardboard box haphazardly tossed over the family’s mailbox.

Feeling compelled to help despite the fact that she did not personally know the family, Smith posted the family’s material needs on Facebook. The response was overwhelming.

“I've got a porch full of things now that people have donated...strollers, bedding,” Smith said. “I've been a little overwhelmed myself about how generous people have been.”

The American Red Cross, which aided 57 people from fires over the weekend, assisted the Armstrongs for three nights until they were able to move in with family for now.

Fire in the sockets

The cause of the blaze is currently under investigation, although officials believe it started as an electrical fire.

Amy Armstrong said that her daughter woke her up after awaking to sparks and a popping sound. Armstrong went into her son’s room and found a melted socket. “There was just a hole in the wall and you could see the fire in there,” Armstrong said.

“I tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but it wasn’t enough,” she said. “I just thought I needed to get everybody out of the house.”

Armstrong, works in home health while her husband drives a school bus. She said the house, where she had lived for four years, had no previous history of major electrical problems except for some fuse problems. With no central heat and a broken gas fireplace, the family used electrical heaters.

She said the fire marshal told her that the fire had probably been burning up to 45 minutes before they found it.

The house, rented from Wendell/Larue, LLC, was laid bare with $55,000 in property and content losses, according to the fire report.

Amy Armstrong said that the owners of the property had not reached out to the family as of Wednesday. Efforts by a reporter to reach Wendell/Larue, LLC, manager Michael Anderson failed.

It took 25 firefighters – a total of five engines and a ladder company, including assistance from Zebulon and Eastern Wake Fire and Rescue – one and a half hours to control the blaze. Three EMS vehicles also arrived.

Staples said that with the fire in the attic space, which had been added onto a couple of times, it was difficult for firemen to reach.

“I’m glad nobody got hurt,” Staples said.

He urged the public to check their smoke detectors.

“At 4 a.m., they save lives,” he said. “We have plenty to give out to the residents of this area.”

The Wendell Fire Department will schedule a time to install smoke detectors upon request.

Although the Armstrong’s have been given clothes and furniture, the American Red Cross is assisting with referrals for kitchenware and other household belongings.

“Like grieving and anything else, it's a process,” said Lu Esposito, regional communications officer for American Red Cross.

To donate, visit www.redcross.org.