Squirrel causes fire that damages New Bern home

Community members save elderly woman from house fire

NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - Investigators said a squirrel caused a fire that damaged a woman's home in New Bern over the weekend.

The fire happened Saturday night on the second floor of 79-year-old Gracie Thomas' home on 2nd Avenue.

According to New Bern Fire Marshal Daniel Hill Jr., a squirrel was nesting either in or on the side of Thomas' home. But that squirrel then chewed on some electrical wires, causing its nest to catch fire. Hill said it's unclear if the squirrel survived.

The flames spread to Thoma's home while she was sleeping downstairs. Neighbors then banged on her door and window to wake her up.

No one was injured in the fire.

The blaze damaged primarily the second level of the home, and firefighters said they had to peel away chunks of the residence in order to extinguish the flames.

Thomas said she is staying with a relative until her home gets fixed.


A 79-year-old woman has a street full of people who saved her life, after her home caught fire on Saturday evening.

Gracie Thomas was sleeping in a downstairs room of her home, when a fire broke out on the second floor of her house at Second Avenue in New Bern.

Multiple community members stepped in to help, knowing that she was most likely  asleep and unaware of what was going on.

Sharon Crouell lives across the street and was the first to see the flames.

"I rushed over and started banging on the door," Crouell said.

Crouell screamed for help, and saw a group of kids coming around the corner. They rushed to help.

"What surprised me most was the young kids helping," Crouell said. "A lot of the adults were walking by, and they looked, but what got to me was when the kids saw I was trying to get her out, they started to help me."

Among the group of kids was 13-year old Ja'Shune Stokes. Stokes helped by grabbing a brick and breaking a window. He screamed into the home to help wake the elderly woman up.

In the midst of all this chaos, witnesses called 911.

That's when Hazel Brown pulled up to her home, just two doors down. Brown is a friend of the victim's, and knew where Thomas was sleeping.

"I knew exactly where she was, so I ran around to the window and beat on the window and yelled her name until she woke up," Brown said.

When Thomas awoke to all the commotion she met all of her rescuers at the front door. They helped her out the home. 

No one was hurt in the fire, which firefighters were alerted to just before 7:30 p.m. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Firefighters had to peel away chunks of Thomas' home in order to extinguish the blaze that was focused on the second level of her home.

Thomas says she is thankful for all of the help and support that she received. She is staying with a relative until she can get back in her home.

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