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Big Canoe home lost in early morning fire Monday

Sunday fire extinguished at Salacoa Highlands

Photo courtesy Pickens Fire Department

Pickens fire crews continue to get business in spurts with long slow periods followed by multiple fires on the same day. This was again the case with one fire Sunday evening followed by another after midnight (early Monday). No injuries were reported, but a home in Big Canoe was a total loss.

The first fire at Acerose Court in Salacoa Highlands was discovered at 7:40 p.m., June 24, when homeowners came home from a weekend away to find their house filled with smoke.

Owners Phillip and Jane Elliott wisely closed the door to the house and called 911. Assistant Fire Chief Curtis Clark said closing doors to burning or smoldering homes or rooms will slow flames.

“Close it up quick,” Clark said. “You don’t feed the fire.”


Clark said volunteer crews from Hinton, Bethany Salem and the paid county crews were on the scene and made quick work of the fire.

“The fact that they had it closed up made it much easier to suppress,” he said.

Clark said it appeared to be a small fire that may have been burning slowly for a long time. Most of the damage was the result of smoke in the house.

The fire appeared to have started from an electrical short in the basement, Clark said.

The second fire, a large second home in Big Canoe, resulted in a total loss.

Clark said he could not say with 100 percent certainty, but everything points to the fire starting from a grill on the back deck being left on. Clark said grills left on can get so hot, “they melt down.”

The home belonged to Richard and Rebecca Cowart of Tennessee and was being used by their children, grandchildren and family friends when the fire started in the early morning hours June 25.

The fire started on the back-deck and was burning into the home when someone woke up because of the noise and roused everyone else.

Clark said they “got out with the clothes on their backs.” Smoke detectors had not sounded, as smoke was not yet inside the home, but the back exterior of the three-story structure was quickly covered with flames.

The Big Canoe fire department was on the scene within five minutes of the 911 call, “but it was gone,” said Clark.

Several things hampered efforts to put out the fire, including the speed flames spread across the exterior. Clark noted the type of building material (wood siding) contributed to rapid flame spread.

Also, Clark said steep terrain around the rear of the home made it impossible to get equipment into position. “We could get to the front with our trucks but not to the back,” he said. “It was difficult to get to and was too developed [when crews arrived].”

Clark said this situation (tall structure on steep slope) presents a hazard for fire crews who have to battle blazes from a safe distance down slope to stay clear of the collapse zone.

Manpower from Big Canoe, Dawson County, Pickens County and volunteer crews from Yellow Creek, Tate and Grandview worked the blaze in rotating shifts “and we could have used some more people,” Clark said.

“We rotated crews and kept pumping water,” he said. “We don’t ever concede one.”

There is always a concern that the flames could spread to other homes, Clark said.

The three adults and four children in the house were transported to Piedmont Mountainside Hospital and checked due to possible smoke inhalation. All were found to be unharmed.

Clark wanted to publicly commend the staff at Piedmont Mountainside. “They did a superb job helping these people out,” he said. “They went way out of their way to see to their welfare.”

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