By Nathan Baker
As her family’s worldly possessions turned to ash, Michelle Nickles hugged her knees in the dirt of her burning home’s driveway and wept.
Her West Carter County family of four lost a home, two pets and everything they owned in a devastating Wednesday morning blaze that drew firefighters from across the county.
Shortly before 9 a.m., firefighters arriving at 108 Bailey Lane found heavy smoke billowing from the eaves of the mobile home.
Unsure if any residents were inside, the small group of first responders from the West Carter Volunteer Fire Department donned oxygen masks and attempted to make entry, but were turned back by impenetrable smoke pouring from the interior.
As arriving fire crews — first Central, then Stoney Creek and Hampton — attacked the blaze from outside the home, the licking flames severed a live electric wire, sending sparks shooting across the ground at their feet.
Central Volunteer Fire Department Chief Neil Miller said the fire appeared to have started in a back bedroom.
The exact cause is still under investigation, but he said it did not appear to be suspicious in nature.
“It was too late to save it when we got there,” Miller said. “It had already spread to most of the structure and was starting to come through the walls.”