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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Little is left of a New Hanover County home after a fire early this morning. The victims are a Carolina Beach firefighter and his wife.

Thanks to years of training and the help of some neighbors, Deputy Fire Chief Grainger Soward and his wife Diane were able to escape from the third story of their home on river road.

“They were on the top balcony screaming ’cause they couldn’t get down,” neighbor Jeffrey Herring said.

The couple woke up to smoke filling their home. An investigator says Soward’s training and preparedness definitely came in to play.

“Smoke detectors save lives,” New Hanover Co. Deputy Fire Marshal Ray Griswold said. “They also had a rescue ladder to get out of the second floor, which they used, so there were a lot of different fire safety features that were used.”

After the Sowards used their escape ladder to get to the lower balcony, neighbors stepped in to get them down.

“We got them and moved them away,” Herring said. “They had gas and propane tanks and everything in the garage. They had 30,000 rounds of ammunition, and the fire department guy said 10,000 of them went off, so they were all going off when we were moving them.”

The fire destroyed just about everything the couple owned.

The flames also melted the vinyl siding on a house next door.

Investigators have ruled out arson, but they are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.

A fund has been set up for the Soward family through the county courthouse, where Diane works. Anyone who would like to donate can visit any First Citizen’s Bank in New Hanover County.

(Fire video courtesy John Bellm)

Comment on this Story


    Just for your info and I shouldn’t even give you the pleasure of response to this, but when it comes to folks like you, I cannot resist. So guess what numbnut… This guy is a NON-PAID member of his department and has been in the fire service for a damn long time… a DAMN long time. He has a business that he has worked his tail off doing for a damn long time (something I doubt very seriously you would know much about based on your ignorance) and if the man wanted to build a three-story house with the funds he earned while working his tail off in a business he does a DAMN AWESOME job at, then so be it.

    The truth is that the ones of you who make ignorant statements such as this haven’t the nads, nor the fortitude to climb on board a rig and unselflessly or unselfishly deal with the numbnuts like you who make the idiotic decisions, to do or say the idiotic things you do that cause you to end up in idiotic situations like you do, which cause the folks like him to get up at 3 in the morning to come and help the numbnuts like you with the boo boo you got because of being completely ignorant and quite frankly STUPID AS HELL.

    As to your other ignorant statements… The man is an avid hunter, collector, and sportsman who has the right to do as he wishes to do when it comes to shooting, hunting, and the collection of firearms and ammunition.

    So… Guess what? When you need a Firefighter, EMT, or Police Officer (and judging by your ignorance, you’ve probably had to deal with plenty of the latter), please know that when you dial 911, someone just like him (and me, by the way) will climb on board that truck and head to where you are at to help you, regardless of what happenstance you find yourself in… Ya know why? Because that is just what our GOOD LORD IN HEAVEN has called on us to do, since folks like you can’t…

    Ya know that it is often said that, “All folks are born, but a select few are born to be firefighters.” I would have to say that the latter is a category in which you do not and could NEVER fall. Because by God, people like you have not the common sense, nor the intelligence to live the life of a firefighter. FTM-PTB KAALGSO

  • beach guy

    look folks, the amount of ammo was a guess by some random neighbor that the reporter quoted ,how did he know how much ammo the guy had ..did the neighbor count it the day before the fire. or is he some anti-gun person taking advantage to express his fear of guns who knows ? the only truth is it was a guess that you are taking as fact.

    The house was fully involved in flames there was no saving it at that point the goal of fire services is to contain the fire so it does not spread to the other houses nearby which they did.

    Questioning the mans ability to borrow money to pay for a house is just wealth envy.You do not know how many jobs this guy has had over the years as most fire service persons work second jobs due to the low pay not being enough to have the American dream of home ownership or he could have gotten a little bit of money from an inheritance you never know. Just because your jealous that this guy had a bigger house than you gives you no right to question his character.
    This family has a tradition of serving the community as fire personnel ,police officers etc. so until you volunteer to fight a fire or wear a bullet proof vest to work just say thank you for your service and keep your snarky ill informed commentary to something you know about like suduku or getting loaded a a cocktail party.
    I am thankful that no one was hurt and wish the family all the best in trying to recover what they have lost, If your house burned to the ground I bet you would not appreciate the stupid uninformed commentary that has crossed this forum over the past few days,
    It is sad that there are people out there that will choose to attack someone when they are at the lowest point instead of encouraging them to hang in there.
    Remember folks bad things happen to good people all the time, next time it could be you and your thoughts and words will come back to haunt you as you ask yourself why me?
    Now all you experts can comment on my grammar and punctuation and call me what ever name you can think of but please let these leave these good people alone they have been through enough.

  • Tommy mitchell

    There is one thing I have noticed. All the negative assumption from unknown users. I have known this family for years. Severed with him as a fire fighter before carolina beach. Great people. Yes fire fighters homes are not exempt. It also sounds like by some of these comments from this area that he needed 60,000 rounds of ammo. Please help these folks. Good people. So sorry grainger and Diane. Will help in anyway.

  • Guest2020

    The important thing here is not that they had so much ammo. The important thing here is not how much the house cost. The important thing here is that two people escaped from a burning house. I know what it is like to lose everything except for the family. I pray that they are able to get the things they need quickly so that they can move on with their lives.

  • Guest2020

    Even if his home did cost that much, what gives you the right to criticize? After all, it’s not only the man that brings home the bacon these days.

    His amount of ammunition is also none of your business. The man has the right to bear arms. I bet, if it weren’t for the fact that the bullets caused a problem for the firefighters, that WWAY wouldn’t have even reported that fact. At least I hope that would be the case.

  • Desiree

    Gosh I would think there would be much more ammo considering this world were living in… You know how about you forget the ammo part and just focus on two people that lost everything they own. I never post on stuff like this but I know this family and I feel the need to comment toward ignorant posts!

  • Gun Owner

    For one thing, you have a neighbor giving a supposed count of ammo on the guy’s own property. 30K rounds? Who knows. I’ve had a bunch too, not because of the SHTF factor, but simply because I shoot in competitions regularly, and the current administration has caused so many guns to be sold to new owners, and caused the corresponding run on ammo, and subsequent inability for the manufacturers to keep up.

    My guns have never been shot in any way that would be considered illegal, have never threatened anyone, and and the only damage or injury to anyone or anything has been targets, and the occasional mag pinch or slide bite. Many many thousands of rounds have been fired by me.

    As to the safety of relatively large quantities of ammo, and it’s possible effect on firefighters, and neighbors, there is none. That was likely understood by the responding firefighters. The gas and propane tanks supposedly in the garage – and in many people’s garages – likely posed a serious hazard, while the ammo did not. According to the story, the only damage was from the fire, including the damage to the neighbors house. There’s likely that many rounds in any Wal-mart, or any other store on any given day, and there are no special precautions necessary unless the ammo is actually chambered in a firearm. No need to contain it in a safe, other than as theft protection.

    See the video. It was made by industry experts, and professional firefighters.


  • Guesty123fo

    The homes are on a small side street near The Cape. They are small (2 bedrooms maybe) with the garage on the bottom floor and you go up steps to the home. Technically it is a 3 story home, but not what you are thinking, maybe $200,000 max. Nice try though.

  • Benji

    It is none of anyone’s business how many rounds of ammo this family had. I bet if this occured on Castle street in government housing (that I pay for, in part) and it was 30K bags of heroin they found instead of ammo; you people would be clammering to set up a fund for the poor disenfranchised victims of a fire. Get a grip. An awful thing happened to a good, hard working family who exercised their 2nd amendment right. If you are amazed by 30k rounds of ammo, you should see what I have in my house just down the street:)

  • SnarkmeisterGeneral

    Hey 696969etc, your tinfoil hat is way too tight.

  • 1492

    It’s always amusing, and a little sad, to see someone post something this inaccurate and essentially, out of touch with reality.

    90% of the homes on River Road cost over a million? I use River Road just about every day and yet somehow I’ve failed to notice that. As to the rest of your post, including all of the nutty punctuation and up-and-down capitalization; I’d have to as off center as you to even address it.

  • guest6969696969

    As this “story” is told, they “were” living in a HOME on River Road..
    HOW does One on firefighter’s PAY AFFORD a 3 story Home on RIVER ROAD?
    90%+ homes on River Road coasts over 1 Million????
    HOW AND where, and HOW did they KEEP 30K rounds of AMMO SAFELY????
    wouldn’t the rest of the **Serf’s & plebes** BE CARGED with “terrorist” activities having a massive amount of Ammo?
    Or some kind of ATF Violation(s)???????
    Valid question(s) folks…
    Was the “Fire-Fighter” running ammunition(s) to a Drug Cartel or something? THUS; being able to afford such High a dollar Home on RIVER ROAD????
    (I smell a good investigative story)……
    Or was He “Keeping rounds/Ammo” as part of the 1.2 billion bought by the DHS & other Alfa-bit agencies’?

  • sb

    I woke up to this fire outside my bedroom window, it was huge. I heard what sounded like fireworks coming from the fire, thought they had a stash of SC bombs, turns out it was only 30K rounds of ammo.
    That is an awful lot.
    But I sincerely hope they are provided for and find a safe home while they rebuild their lives.

  • Guest123123

    If you have homeowners insurance with any reputable company they are going to cut you a check on the spot for living expenses. I think they will be ok.

  • Karen B

    Seems like there is a higher incidence of fires destroying fire fighter’s homes than the general population’s. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

  • Kara

    Because fire fighters are somehow miraculously immune to accidents? Maybe you should keep your ignorant conspiracy theories inside that tiny brain of yours.

  • Ray Finkle

    Note to the article. Carolina Beach fire crews also responded as mutual aid to the call and it was the Deputy Chief’s residence.

  • Erika

    Is there any information on how we might be able to help the family or donate some items for them?

  • Sara Hopkins

    Yes, a fund has been set up for the Sowards. You can visit any Citizens Bank in New Hanover County to make a donation.

  • malchjrc

    Is that a typo ? 30,000 rounds of ammo ? Good mother of God why ? I know, I know, because they are coming for our guns and we have to arm ourselves… but for what ? 30K rounds doesn’t last that long when it comes to that kind of scenario. Sorry but if you are that paranoid and you turn out to be right, you are dead anyway.


    30,000 rounds of ammo he can afford to get back on his feet.

  • Guestomfg

    30,000 rounds of ammunition ? For what? Apparently paranoid prep-er rednecks.

  • Lindsey Abel

    Little do you know by your own ignorant comment is this family has done a lot for their community. This couple that you speak of are some of the most caring people in our community. Granger has volunteered on the Carolina Beach fire department for as long as I can remember. He is an active member of this community and volunteers more than anyone I know! His hobbies should not be in question here. Please remember this family just lost everything they had. Please be more considerate. Also, what should be recognized here is that he and his wife are safe and alive thanks to them being prepared. Let this be a lesson to everyone that owns a multi story home, get a fire ladder!! And keep your fire detectors checked!!

  • April

    Get a clue Gustomfg & don’t call people who are smart enough to prepare for whatever. Instead of asking why a good man has ammo ask why FEMA & the IRS need weapons & armored vehicles.

  • Guest-o-matic

    …and the man can have as much ammunition as he wants! With all the rumors of our illustrious, socialist leader making ammo unavailable and triple taxing it, a lot of people collect it. Ammunition has been very difficult to to buy for well over a year and a half now. That hurts people like me that shoot in competitions. Go crawl back under your sheep shed, shiver in fear a little bit and mind your own bidness.

    Now, if you have a hint of compassion about yourself, throw a few bucks in the donation basket to help this family get back on their feet!

  • Brenda Jarrell

    With our Government threatening to take away our guns and control our every move and thought, maybe it is a good idea to have an abundance of ammunition. There is something to be said about preparedness. Look how it saved this man and his wife. I-95 still runs north, it’s not closed.

  • guestyI

    This whole story smells very fishy?? Why in the heck did they have 30,000 rounds of ammunition? Stuck on the 3rd floor with no way down. Seems like if you have that much ammo it should be stored in some sort of safe that would at least prevent it from going off and killing a nieghbor or responding Fireman?? I hope their ins agent investigates this matter before paying out.

  • Linda Johnson

    Diane and Granger Soward are the best people around and to question the fact that they had ammo or the fact that Granger is a firefighter then shame on you. I was a member of the Carolina Beach Fire Deptartment years ago, and Granger gave himself 110%. He would lay his life on the line to protect everyone, even the ignorant commenters out there. Diane was a member of the Fire Belles who came and brought food and drinks out to us when fighting fires. day or night, so before anyone judges anyone else, my question is, what have you done to help your fellow man. Judge not… Praying for you both Diane and Granger.

  • william

    No that sounds about right 30,000 rounds if you have more than one gun you need the ammo for them.
    its also called the 2nd amendment!
    You should be saying thank God everyone is ok.
    They are two of the best people you could meet.
    Things happen even to emergency personal
    Thank you to the next door neighbor who came to the rescue and helped them!

  • Monkey Junction

    The reason why ammo is in short supply has nothing to do with the government. Paranoid gun owners think the UN is coming with black helicopters to take all of their guns so they hoard ammo.

    Best of luck to this family as they recover from their loss. Thank you to them for all that they do in the community.

  • Guest-o-matic

    …over your house right now! No tail numbers either brighteyes!

  • guestyI

    The goverment is threatening to take away our guns??? Really…do tell. I’m a gun owner and have not heard of any threats to “take away our guns”.
    As far as the home / fire goes I’m guessing all the live ammo firing off prevented the fire dept from possibly saving the structure.
    Irresponsible at best and I say if that’s the way the home owners want to live then they can deal with the aftermath on their own. You can’t fix stupid and if they ain’t stupid then that tells me something shady went down.


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