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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)

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32 Comments on "Training, preparedness credited for saving deputy fire chief, wife from fire"

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beach guy
2016 years 2 months ago

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… Read more »

Tommy mitchell
2016 years 2 months ago

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.

2016 years 2 months ago

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.

2016 years 2 months ago

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.

2016 years 2 months ago

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.

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