CHADBOURN, NC (WWAY) -- A deadly fire in Columbus County last night left friends and family devastated. Around 11 p.m. Monday, police responded to a fire at a home in Chadbourn. Sixty-year-old Thomas Edward Brown did not make it out alive.
Investigators say Brown was inside his home on West Street when it caught fire. Everyone close to him knew him as "Preacher." They say he was a man of god and went out of his way to help those in need
"I knew him my entire life," Brown's cousin Brenda Baker said. "A good man. If he could help you, he would. He would shelter the homeless, feed the homeless, and if you ever needed a favor from him, he did it from the bottom of his heart. A good Christian man."
Ricky Baker lived a few houses down the street from Brown. He said he saw the flames around 10:30 p.m. and rushed over to the burning house.
"I ran and grabbed me two bricks and busted the windows out that I knew he slept at. When I busted the windows out, that's when the smoked came out of the house," Baker said.
Baker said police arrived right after he broke the windows. The fire department showed up a little while later, but could not save Brown.
One thing is for certain: Brown will be missed.
"It's just a sad thing that happened," friend Joan Parker said. "It's hurtful to me, and it's painful to me. I'm like family to him. This is just terrible."
The police and fire departments are still investigating the fire, but say they believe it was accidental. Investigators say they believe the fire started near the front door, near the center of the house.