Barbara Ann Moss was asleep in the front bedroom of her house early last Wednesday morning when she was awakened by her husband yelling her name. Mrs. Moss' husband, James, was an amputee, and Mrs. Moss was accustomed to him calling for help. But this time his cries sounded different.
Mrs. Moss said she opened her bedroom door to a wall of fire. Unable to reach her husband, she crawled out of her bedroom window and ran around the house to the back door, but found it locked. Mrs. Moss said she tried to force the door open so she could get in and help her husband, but was unsuccessful.
McDuffie County Fire Chief Bruce Tanner checks out the damage to the Guy Road home last Wednesday morning.
Photo by Kristopher Wells
"Then I thought of my son, that he could help, and I ran to a neighbor's house, and told them to call him and call the fire department," Mrs. Moss said.
McDuffie County Fire Chief Bruce Tanner said a call came into 911 at 6:02 a.m. for the fire at 199 Guy Road, south of Thomson. Chief Tanner said when the first crew arrived on the scene, the fire had already vented through the roof.
"For her it was a good thing that he called her name and woke her up, or she'd be gone, too," said Jimmy Samuels, a neighbor on Guy Road. "He saved her life. ...He was an alright fellow, he didn't hate nobody."
A few miles away on Old Milledgeville Road, the Moss' son, Antonio Moss, and his wife, Tammy, were listening to the police scanner when they heard the call for a fire at his parent's address. Antonio said he arrived at the house the same time as the fire department. He said he kicked the back door down for them.
Antonio said he wanted to go into the house and help his father, but authorities wouldn't allow him to do so. According to Chief Tanner, the first attack crew who searched the house found Mr. Moss's body in his bed.
"(We didn't let the son in) for his own safety," said Stephen Sewell, assistant fire chief. "At that point, it would not have made a difference. The condition of the fire and the house was dangerous. We couldn't have two victims."
Mr. and Mrs. Moss have four adult sons, 10 grandchildren, and a 14-year-old girl who has lived with them since she was a baby because her mother died. Mr. Moss also has two other daughters. Mrs. Moss said he "loved his grandchildren, that's all he talked about was his grandchildren, and how many more we would get."
"He got along with everybody. We used to go fishing a lot together," said Johnny Aldred, another neighbor.
The Mosses were married 29 years, and had built the house on Guy Road in 1979. Wednesday's fire was the second for the small block house. Mrs. Moss said the house burned in 1985 when their children accidentally set a fire while playing with matches. They immediately rebuilt the house, using the same foundation and back block wall.
Mr. Moss worked at Air Balance in Wrens for 21 years. In 2000, he suffered a stroke which caused paralysis and disabled him from work. In January 2004, Mr. Moss' leg was amputated due to complications from diabetes. Mrs. Moss said he couldn't get out much except to go to doctor's appointments.
"He was a sweet person in his own way," she said. "We used to fuss like most couples do. But once he got sick, I quit work. I felt like I had to stay with him all the time and take care of him."
Antonio said he remembers taking his father to a family reunion in July. After the reunion, he and his father had a good time "just riding around town, letting him look around, just he and I together."
Assistant Fire Chief Sewell said the cause of the fire is still under investigation, pending the results of an autopsy of the body and findings from the state fire marshal's department.
Since the fire, Mrs. Moss has been staying with her niece who also lives on Guy Road. This week, Mrs. Moss will move to her sister's house in Glascock County.
"The community has been doing what they could, like churches have been giving me donations," Mrs. Moss said.
Kathleen Dosmoski, director of the local chapter of the American Red Cross, said the Red Cross is helping Mrs. Moss. The Red Cross accepts financial donations rather than bulk items.
"It's best if we have the financial resources available for them to go purchase the items they need, the proper sizes and colors, and that means a lot to the family," Ms. Dosmoski said.
Persons wishing to donate through the Red Cross can call the local chapter at (706) 724-8481. Those wishing to help Mrs. Moss directly can reach her at (706) 465-2065.